News Release 409

E. coli levels prompt closure of swimming beaches at three state parks this weekend

Volume 38-409 (For immediate release)
Contact: Judd Slivka

JEFFERSON CITY, MO, JULY 21, 2010 – Swimming beaches at three Missouri state parks will be closed this weekend due to E. coli levels higher than the standard set by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Water samples drawn Monday from public beaches at Wakonda, Pomme de Terre and Watkins Woolen Mill state parks showed E. coli levels in excess of the department’s standard for state park beaches.

The public beach at Wakonda State Park will remain closed because of E. coli levels department’s standard for a single sample. Results from Monday’s sample taken from the park’s public beach showed 307.6 E. coli colonies per 100 milliliters of water.

The remaining parks with beaches closed this weekend had E. coli levels lower than the beach at Wakonda State Park, but still in excess of the department standard of 235 E. coli colonies per 100 milliliters of water: 

In order to provide a safer beach experience, the Department of Natural Resources will close beaches at state parks if a single sample is above 235 E. coli colonies per 100 milliliters of water, which is also the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s single-sample guideline for a swimming beach.

The three closed beaches have been posted with signs notifying visitors of the closure and will remain closed until E. coli levels fall below the department standard. Pittsburg Beach at Pomme de Terre State Park met the department standard and will be open for the weekend.

No other state park beaches tested high for E. coli levels; however, bacterial levels often rise after heavy rains and lake users should use their judgment when swimming after heavy rains.

Sample results from Crowder, Cuivre River and Finger Lakes state parks were delayed and should be available Thursday afternoon.

The latest information on beach closings at state parks is available online at /asp/spbeaches/state-park-beach-status.asp. Additional beaches may be closed for other reasons, such as high water levels or safety and management issues. Information about all temporary closings at state parks is available online at /asp/spbeaches/state-park-beach-status.asp.

The 1,054-acre Wakonda State Park is located south of LaGrange in Lewis County.  The 734-acre Pomme de Terre State Park, which has two separate locations along the 7,800-acre Pomme De Terre Lake, is located near the communities of Pittsburg and Hermitage in Hickory County. The 1,500-acre Watkins Woolen Mill State Park is located in Lawson, northeast of Kansas City in Clay County.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources, through its Division of State Parks, manages 85 state parks and historic sites throughout the state, including 15 with swimming beaches. Water samples are taken weekly during the recreational swimming season to help ensure a safe public swimming area.

E. coli is a bacteria found in the intestinal tract of warm-blooded animals, including humans.  While most strains of E. coli are harmless, some strains can cause gastrointestinal illness. 

These bacteria and other pathogens can reach lake water from many different sources, both human and animal.  For some people, such as children, elderly or those with weakened immune systems, even low levels of these bacteria may cause illness.