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Polluted playground gets spring scrubdown

With the discovery of E. coli bacteria on the playground at Northern Lights Elementary School in Superior, the play area was closed and the equipment and all surfaces beneath them were washed with a water-bleach solution. Jed Carlson /

After some heavy disinfecting and de-doggy-doo-ing, the playgrounds at Superior's Northern Lights Elementary School have been declared E. coli free.

Superior school district Buildings and Grounds Director Gary Niemi said it all started when staff at the school noticed a special kind of smell around the school's entryways.

"When I'm picking up after my dogs, I know what that smells like and that's what it smelled like all around the area," he said. "We tried to sweep it off with a power broom and the power broom smelled like that, too. It was kind of obvious what it was."

Niemi says after a concerned citizen took a test sample from a puddle near one of the playgrounds, they realized they had a problem. Niemi says test results confirmed the presence of E. coli bacteria.

"It is a red flag and we're concerned about it, too, because when kids are playing they're not too careful about where they put their hands," he said.

Niemi said that after the discovery, the playgrounds at Northern Lights were closed until staff could scour the area.

"In midweek during spring break, we disinfected the playground equipment and all of the surfaces underneath them with a water-bleach solution, and we washed off the equipment again with clean water from the hose to make sure it was clean."

Niemi said the school district has put some new signs up warning people about the dangers of pet waste but says all it really takes is some common courtesy to keep this from happening again.

"We don't mind you using our areas or especially our common areas, but watch out where your pet is and what it's doing and clean up after it, please, and especially keep it out of the playgrounds," he said.

Niemi said the school has also disinfected entryways and carpeting inside the school.