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(MAMMOTH CAVE NATIONAL PARK – March 1, 2007) The complete route of the Historic Tour at Mammoth Cave National Park reopened on Friday, February 23. It had operated on a shorter, alternate route since mid-November, following water quality concerns for public health.
“The Historic Tour is a favorite with the public and now we are certain that it is safe to return,” said Superintendent Patrick Reed. “Two things have worked in our favor – regular monitoring has consistently shown lower levels of fecal coliform and E.coli, and we now have a secondary standard for exposure.”
On October 26, 2006, a researcher found high levels of fecal coliform and E. coli in water dripping into the cave, exceeding public health standards. As a precautionary measure, tours into the Historic section were temporarily cancelled; later a shorter version of the tour was opened. Federal public health regulations in place at that time only addressed bathing beaches, where people would be immersed in water.
“The immersion standard was a poor match for our situation, where people might or might not be dripped on as they walk through the cave,” said Reed. “The U. S. Public Health Service and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agreed to set a secondary exposure standard, in line with the Kentucky secondary standard, which is for jet skiing and fishing. Recent test results have shown that we are well below both the secondary and primary standards.”
The park has established a sampling plan to monitor levels of fecal coliform and E.coli along the tour routes.
“It’s important to remember that these bacteria are normal components of groundwater,” added Reed. “We became concerned for our visitors and employees when high spikes were detected. Our actions will always be toward protecting our visitors and park resources.”
- NPS -