BREAKING NEWS: Health Dept. Orders No Swimming at Merwin Meadows Pending Further Water Tests

GOOD Morning Wilton file photo

BREAKING NEWS, 12:30 P.M. — Sunday, a Wilton woman generated a lot of interest and concern among residents when she posted in the Wilton 411 Facebook group about her young child’s experience after swimming at Merwin Meadows on Friday, July 9.

With vivid photos and a detailed description, the woman claimed that after roughly an hour of swimming, her son developed a rash all over his body, including swollen eyes, lips and a sore throat, prompting a trip to the emergency room. She attributed the reaction to warm pond water with easy access by geese or other animals.

Steve Pierce, director of Wilton’s Parks and Recreation Department, learned about the situation over the weekend from First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice, who had seen the Facebook post.

“We are re-testing the water today,” Pierce told GOOD Morning Wilton.

According to Wilton’s Health Department director Barry Bogle, samples were taken at Merwin Meadows earlier this morning and will be sent via courier to a state-certified lab for testing.

In the meantime, in an abundance of caution, no swimming will be allowed.

“I have ordered the bathing area of Merwin Meadows closed, effective this morning and to remain so until the results of the samples are returned to this office at which time the required action will be taken as is warranted,” Bogle told GMW.

“Staff will be on-site to notify the public,” Pierce noted.

The latest testing was ordered in addition to the routine, weekly testing that is done by the Health Department, every Wednesday.

Vanderslice confirmed that last Wednesday’s test (along with previous tests) came back “clean.”

As of this morning, neither Vanderslice, Bogle nor Pierce had been contacted by the woman who made the Facebook post. Vanderslice also said that no reports from other residents had been received since Friday.

Both Pierce and Bogle said they were not aware of any past reports received by their departments of similar reactions by swimmers such as the one made in the Facebook post. Still, some residents commented on the Wilton 411 post about “swimmer’s itch” or other reactions after swimming at Merwin’s Meadow or other freshwater spots.

“It is everyone’s goal that Merwin Meadows pond be a safe and enjoyable spot for residents of all ages,” Vanderslice said, adding, “In general, I would encourage any resident who has any question or concern about Merwin’s or any town matter to email the appropriate town employee or me.”

Pierce also noted that the water at Merwin Meadows is not untreated, standing water. “We have the water treated by a company for clarity and plant growth that [is] licensed by the state. There is an outflow area to the pond and an aerator in the pond keeping the water moving which helps with the conditions in the pond,” he said.

As for the specific concern about geese, Pierce said Parks & Rec has been taking steps to minimize the presence of geese in the park, including the use of a tool that emits a whistling sound. “That scares the geese off-site,” Pierce said.

He also described a laser light tool that, coincidentally, the department just received earlier last week. Pierce said the department is “still in the testing phase” with it.

Bogle sought to reassure the public. “This and every other [town] department here in Wilton strive to ensure that our public [facilities] are safe, clean and secure. The health and safety of our residents and visitors are our number one concern.”