One of the largest ski resorts, host to the 1960 winter Olympics, Squaw Valley knows the importance of safety. On November 8, testing of water systems on the upper mountain indicated the presence of E. coli bacteria in the four wells that are the source of water for systems at High Camp and Gold Coast. While area residents were not affected, restaurants and other facilities on the upper mountain were shut down. Squaw Valley acted quickly, notifying authorities with Placer County Environmental Health and the Squaw Valley Public Service District and taking immediate steps to resolve the issue.
The source of the contamination appears to have been an unusually heavy October rain fall (9.5 inches in less than 72 hours). Recent upgrades to the affected water system, completed over the summer, in combination with the excessive precipitation are believed to have made the system vulnerable to contaminants. Routine testing of the water after the rains showed low levels of E. coli and other coliform bacteria. Fortunately, no health issues have been reported. Water usage from the contaminated systems was halted before the water reached the public. Squaw Valley’s other water systems and the area’s residential systems remained unaffected, and free bottled water was provided for skiers at High Camp and Gold Coast.
Continued testing along with regular treatments has reduced bacterial levels in three of the four wells. The resort has indicated a commitment to health and safety by maintaining a ban on water usage until systems can be declared 100% safe for potable water usage. Additional measures will be taken as needed and full service to the upper mountain will be restored as soon as testing confirms normal safety levels. In the meantime, ski lifts are operational and skiing continues at the beautiful Squaw Valley Alpine Meadow Ski Resort.