Ben Schnayerson

CalTrans put a permanent cap on Highway 92's Lombardi Springs in late March after they found E.coli bacteria in the water. The spring was a source of drinking water for some locals, radiator water for commuters and a novelty for tourists. Coincidentally, former CalTrans worker Joseph Lombardi, for whom the well was named, died on Sunday, March 25, at the age of 81. "The spring shut down in honor of him," said Dr. Irwin Cohen, a Half Moon Bay podiatrist. Lombardi was one of Cohen's patients. California Department of Transportation spokesperson Bob Haus said that the decision to cap the springs is due to the high costs of further tests and maintenance. "It would cost a lot of money to track the source or to install a filtration system, and it is just more cost effective to cap it," Haus said. "It is just a little spigot there. It is not like the community is relying on that completely." Haus also said that CalTrans has hired geological technicians to determine how the closure of the pipe will affect the groundwater. Lt. John Quinlan of the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office said that the closure of the spring is a big loss to the Coastside. He said that his officers would often drink the well water during search and rescue operations in the Skyline area. "I depended on it because I liked it better than water coming out of the tap," Quinlan said. "As long as I've been with the Sheriff's office and before that, there were always about ten cars parked there every day." Quinlan said that he would often tell drivers to use the well to refill their radiators. "From a safety point of view, I can see where CalTrans is coming from. People do the most idiotic U-turns there," said Chris Mickelsen of the Half Moon Bay Nursery, located along Highway 92. "But for historical reasons, it is a shame to lose it," he added. CalTrans first located the bacteria in February and found it in five consecutive tests over a month. CalTrans closed the spring for good on March 2. E.coli originates in sources such as sewage, animal feces or animal carcasses. If ingested, the bacteria can cause hemorrhaging in the intestines. Haus said that animal feces or an animal carcass was the likely cause of spring's contamination. Sewage was ruled out as a cause because a broken pipe would have easily been found, he added. CalTrans has not located E.coli in any of its highway wells in the Bay Area over the past few years, according to Haus. However, he also said that there are only a few highway wells in the Bay Area. According to San Mateo County Environmental Health Department Director Dean Peterson, county health officials found a well with E.coli a few years ago in the county. He said that the bacteria came from a nearby horse stable and that the situation was quickly resolved. "We do find it and when we find it, we don't allow it to be drinking water anymore," Peterson said.

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