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Publish Date: 8/26/2005

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Health officials warned residents living near Little Gaynor Lake, located southeast of Oxford Road and 95th Street, to leave their homes and consult a doctor if the lake’s rotten egg-stench causes health problems. Record temperatures in July caused an abnormally large algae bloom in the stagnant pond, leading the sulfur odor. Times-Call/Brad Turner

Stench may force evacuations
Algae bloom on Little Gaynor Lake may pose health hazards


LONGMONT — An overwhelming stink from a stagnant pond south of the city may force nearby residents to evacuate their homes, health officials said Thursday.

Homeowners around Little Gaynor Lake, located southeast of the intersection of 95th Street and Oxford Road, received the warning from a Boulder County Public Health hotline message Thursday evening.

Jennifer Haratsaris, one of several nearby residents who complained of the oppressive stench, said the odor around her home has grown so vile in recent weeks that her husband suffered from headaches.

“Every night it smells really bad, like rotten eggs and sulfur,” Haratsaris said. “It’s really unpleasant. It’s put a damper on the neighborhood.”

Health officials may be unable to treat the problem because the stink is a naturally occurring phenomenon.

Unusually hot weather in July helped create an enormous algae bloom in the pond that is producing large amounts of hydrogen sulfide, county spokesman Jim Burrus said.

“This stuff is heavier than air, so it pools in low-lying areas,” Burrus said of the gas. “We don’t suspect it’s a major public health problem.”

However, the health department’s hotline, 303-441-1460, urged residents to evacuate and see a doctor if they experience headaches, nausea, eye irritation, confusion, seizures or tremors.

Ecologists refer to Little Gaynor Lake as a “prairie pothole,” a low-lying body of water with no fresh water moving through it, Burrus said.

Officials have no plans to treat the water with chemicals because it a wildlife sanctuary managed by Boulder County Parks and Open Space. However, they may dump barley hay in the water to curb algae growth, Burrus said.

Health workers scrambled Thursday to find a private company that can sample air quality around the lake and determine if the air has reached dangerous levels, Burrus said.

Air monitoring will likely begin Saturday, but results may not be available for weeks, he said.

Aine Loomis, who has lived next to the pond for six years, said she first noticed a stench coming from the water about a month ago.

“It’s a very pretty lake, but I guess this is the downside of living next to it,” she said. “It’s like a bad septic tank. It wakes you up at night.”

Brad Turner can be reached at 720-494-5420, or by e-mail at bturner@times-call.com.

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