News Release 443

Swimming beaches at three state parks closed for weekend

Volume 38-443 (For Immediate Release)
Contact: Judd Slivka

JEFFERSON CITY, MO, AUG. 4, 2010 – The swimming beaches at three Missouri state parks will be closed this weekend due to E. coli levels higher than the standards set by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Water samples drawn Monday from the beach at Watkins Woolen Mill State Park showed E. coli levels in excess of the department’s single-sample standard for state park beaches. The results of samples drawn at Hermitage Beach in Pomme de Terre State Park and at Wakonda State Park Beach failed to meet a different E. coli-related standard.

Watkins Woolen Mill State Park Beach, which was closed once earlier this season, was closed again today because of E. coli levels approximately 10 times higher than the department’s standard for a single sample. Monday’s sample from the beach was approximately 2,419 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 department also employs a geometric mean – which is a formula that includes the results from all of the samples taken at a specific site during the recreational swimming season – as a second standard for determining whether to close state park beaches. The department will close any state park beach with a geometric mean for E. coli of 126 E. coli colonies per 100 milliliters of water or above.

Monday’s result at Wakonda State Park Beach of 49.6 E. coli colonies per 100 milliliters, when combined with earlier results, brought the geometric mean for the beach to 252.3 colonies per 100 milliliters.

The 32.7 E. coli colonies per 100 milliliters found in Monday’s sample from Hermitage Beach at Pomme de Terre State Park raised that site’s geometric mean to 154 colonies per 100 milliliters.

All three beaches have been posted with signs notifying visitors of the closure and will remain closed until E. coli levels fall below the department standard.

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.

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 1,500-acre Watkins Woolen Mill State Park is located in Lawson, northeast of Kansas City in Clay County. 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 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.