News Release 513

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

Volume 38-513 (For Immediate Release)
Contact: Larry Archer

JEFFERSON CITY, MO, SEPT., 1, 2010 – The Department of Natural Resources will keep the swimming beach at Watkins Woolen Mill State Park northeast of Kansas City closed this weekend 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, when combined with sample results from throughout the summer, failed to meet the department standard for E. coli.

The department employs two standards related to E. coli in determining whether to close state park beaches. One of those, known as a geometric mean, is a formula that includes the results from all of the samples taken at a specific site during the recreational swimming season. The department will close any state park beach with a geometric mean for E. coli of 126 colonies per 100 milliliters of water or above.

The results of Monday’s samples from Watkins Mill Beach were 18.3 and 22.6 E. coli colonies per 100 milliliters of water, which, when combined with earlier results, brought the geometric mean for the beach to 193.5 colonies per 100 milliliters.

Watkins Mill Beach will remain posted with signs notifying visitors of the closure and will remain closed until both single sample levels and the geometric mean for E. coli fall below the department standards.

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.