Houseboaters bury human waste, contaminate Lake Powell beach

A sign indicates an area closure in the Kane Creek Canyon area of Padre Canyon at Lake Powell, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah, June 28, 2017 | Photo courtesy the National Park Service, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A small portion of land is closed to visitors in the Kane Creek Canyon area of Padre Bay in Lake Powell due to human fecal contamination.

The incident was reported to the National Park Service Wednesday after witnesses saw a group of more than 20 people camping from a houseboat use the area illegally to defecate, according to a news release issued by Glen Canyon National Recreation Area officials.

Map indicating the area at Lake Powell closed after campers buried human feces in sand | Image courtesy the National Park Service, St. George News | Click on image to enlarge

Though no contamination of lake water occurred, an unknown number of human waste piles are scattered throughout the area just under the sand’s surface.

The park service deemed the area unsafe for recreational activities because of the potential for exposure to the feces and has clearly marked the affected area with signage.

The cleanup effort poses significant challenges, and the health hazard may persist for weeks or months.

Because the lake level fluctuates by between 20 and 50 feet every year, an area of dry land may be submerged the next year. Buried waste is released by wave action, creating a potentially unsafe situation when it mingles with the water.

The incident remains under investigation, and park officials have not yet announced if anyone faces charges.

Proper waste disposal

“Lake Powell is one of the cleanest reservoirs in the United States,” William Shott, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area superintendent, said in the news release. “We need everyone’s efforts to help us keep it that way.”

Visitors to Lake Powell camping within a quarter mile of the lakeshore must have a portable toilet system that does not use plastic bags to contain the waste.

There are eight floating restrooms/dump stations and six areas within Lake Powell’s marinas in which to empty portable toilets.

The Stateline boat pump-out renovation is complete and open to the public. It is equipped with four peristaltic pumps and is the same type of disposal system used at Wahweap, Bullfrog, Halls Crossing and Dangling Rope.

Visitors may also use polymer-based waste bag containment systems, marketed under such brands as ReStop and WagBag. The bags may be properly disposed of at any dumpster, but to prevent clogging, they should not be disposed at pump-out sites or dump stations.

Visitors are asked to report any violations or concerns to the park’s “Powell Watch Program” via text message to 928-614-0820.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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  • high5 July 1, 2017 at 6:03 am

    OMG People!!! Who raised You?!!! Huh?

  • ladybugavenger July 1, 2017 at 8:24 am


  • Craig July 1, 2017 at 8:38 am

    Though it’s disgusting what these people did, if officials were on the beach seeing where feces were slightly buried, why didn’t they use a shovel, pick it up, put it in a bag, and get rid of it?

  • Dusty July 1, 2017 at 1:38 pm

    There ought to be a way to make the people who left it there come back and get it!

  • comments July 1, 2017 at 3:41 pm

    Just imagine all the houseboaters that empty there sewage tanks right into the lake. This aint nothin’ compared to that.

  • Real Life July 1, 2017 at 4:41 pm

    It’s them dam tree huggers fault! You should be able to dump your poo anywhere you want. Just like that huge fire up in Cedar Mountain. It’s the tree huggers fault! You should be able to burn anything, anytime. Back me up here, you darn locals!

  • utahdiablo July 1, 2017 at 9:23 pm

    Hey, they do that all the time in Quail lake…”bano Mami, Bano!” and then Mami tells her kid to go take a crap in the reservoir….seen it and heard it with our own eyes and ears,… you want ’em here? live with it

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