Concerns over E. coli shutter water park, other businesses

Williamsburg waterpark, hotel closed because of boil order

Erin Jordan
Published: July 9 2012 | 7:30 pm - Updated: 31 March 2014 | 9:29 pm in
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Several Williamsburg businesses, including the Wasserbahn Waterpark, will remain closed until the owner can provide safe drinking water, officials said.

Officials from two state agencies closed the Clarion Inn, which houses the Wasserbahn and Seven Villages Restaurant, on Friday after a water test reported to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources showed E. coli bacteria in the well that supplies the hotel.

A nearby Maid-Rite was also closed and a Casey’s General Store may not prepare food until the problems are fixed or the businesses find an alternate water source, officials said.

“We were notified by the DNR that the water was unsafe,” said David Werning, a spokesman for the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, which oversees restaurant inspections.

No one has reported being sickened during or after a recent visit to the hotel or surrounding businesses, public health officials said.

The Clarion’s internal water testing showed the presence of E. coli, but the DNR did not find the bacteria when representatives came to retest the hotel’s water supply, said Jon Ryk, a department environmental specialist. However, the agency did find coliform bacteria in the water-treatment process, which indicates problems with the system, Ryk said.

Most types of E. coli, which lives in human intestines, are harmless. However, toxigenic strains can cause diarrhea, including bloody diarrhea that can, in extreme cases, cause kidney failure and even death, especially in young children. The bacteria can be passed by eating contaminated food or swallowing pool water tainted by human or animal waste.

DNR officials on site Monday could not identify how bacteria was entering the system and the hotel was unable to maintain chlorine levels adequate for drinking water, Ryk said.

The Johnson County Public Health Department, which inspects pools in Iowa County, closed the Wasserbahn on Friday. Although dangerous bacteria were not found in the pool, inspectors decided on the closure because of repeated issues since the hotel changed ownership last year, said Ken Sharp, environmental health division director for the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Inspectors “have noticed under the new management recurring problems with not enough chlorine residual and water clarity issues,” Sharp said. Hotel owners “have also been challenged being able to maintain a certified pool operator.”

Inadequate chlorine can create an environment where bacteria and parasites can multiply to dangerous levels.

The Wasserbahn, with tube slides, a 160-gallon bucket dump, geysers and a floating log walk, has been a popular Interstate 80 destination for families since it opened in 2004.

Health inspections from 2006 to 2011 show few violations.

The Wasserbahn came under new management in October, according to Iowa County Assessor’s Office records.

Amana Nordstrom Inc., a partnership between the Amana Society and members of Nordstrom family of Cedar Rapids, sold the hotel, water park and other nearby businesses, including the Casey’s and Maid-Rite, at auction for $1.75 million. The parcel, including the various businesses, had been valued at just over $5 million in 2010, according to assessor’s records. It is now valued at $3.9 million.

Young Been Kim is now listed as the Wasserbahn owner.

A manager at the water park told The Gazette on Monday that she could not comment.

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