A field experiment showed that numbers of Escherichia coli declined significantly when floating Lemna spp. plants were removed to create open water areas in a typical newly constructed surface flow treatment wetland in southern Ontario. It is suggested that E. coli declined immediately after Lemna removal because the Lemna was shading the water column from penetration by natural UV radiation, it was providing favourable attachment sites for the E. coli, and it was not allowing effective free exchange of oxygen from surface winds to the water column to maintain high enough dissolved oxygen supplies for predator zooplankton populations. Operators of wetland systems must have the specialized skills required to recognize the cause and the appropriate maintenance requirements to maintain efficient operation of such unconventional systems should E. coli numbers increase during the course of operation.