News Release 479

Department of Natural Resources to close swimming beach at Watkins Woolen Mill State Park for weekend

Volume 38-479 (For Immediate Release)
Contact: Judd Slivka

JEFFERSON CITY, MO, AUG. 18, 2010 – The Department of Natural Resources has closed the swimming beach at Watkins Woolen Mill State Park northeast of Kansas City due to E. coli levels above the standards set by the department.

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.

Monday’s sample from Watkins Mill Beach had 344.8 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.

Watkins Mill Beach has 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 near Lawson, northeast of  Kearney, 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.