Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of summer and many people are ready to go swimming, but health officials warn heavy rains may wash harmful bacteria into swimmers favorite recreational waterways.
The Springfield-Green County Health Department and the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks have started monitoring popular swimming spots in Greene County for the presence of E. coli. The E. coli count is an indication of fecal water contamination, which can make swimmers sick.
Kathryn Wall is the Public Health Information Administrator for the Springfield-Green County Health Department.
“We found some areas that were a little bit higher than we like, the highest was the Little Sac River, and the E. coli levels there were just a little too high for our comfort level,” said Wall. “We’re not telling people don’t go swim or anything like that, just be more aware of what you’re getting into.”
Wall said E. coli levels are often high during periods of storm water runoff.
“Don’t go swimming after really heavy rains, that’s going to tend to really wash things out into those creeks, if the water is murky, generally it’s a place to avoid,” said Wall. “E. coli is most common in fecal material and so in the Ozarks we do have some agriculture, so some of that is going to naturally wash away into the water streams, so usually we just kind of tell people to wait it out.”
Wall said there is a certain amount of danger when E. coli levels are high.
“Too high of concentrations can make people sick and in some cases can be fatal, especially for people very young, very old, or immune compromised for one reason or another,” said Wall.
Wall said swimmers should avoid swallowing water and swimming when sick. Wall said it’s important to thoroughly wash hands and shower after swimming.
“There a lot of people who are at the creek all day and they take a lunch and might not think about it, they get out of the water, and go straight to their lunch, and don’t think about that bacteria that’s on their hands,” said Wall.
The most recent test results for the Springfield area can be found on the Springfield-Greene County Health Department’s website.