From staff reports
The lack of recent rains means there will be low water levels in most area creeks and rivers for swimmers this Memorial Day weekend.
But it also means that fewer micro-organisms will be in the water.
“Most of the swimmable creeks are OK right now because it has been so dry,’’ said Bob Culp, head of the Newton County Health Department in Neosho. “It’s after a rain when stormwater runoff enters the creeks that we see a spike in bacteria.’’
Tests of a few small creeks and branches in the county show that most of them have bacteria levels that fall below any level of concern for bacterial contamination. Only one branch — Motley Branch in the northern part of the county — showed an elevated reading for the presence of E.coli bacteria when it was tested on May 15.
Results of monthly water quality sampling for bacteria at the five stream gages located in the Elk River watershed indicate that local streams are safe and generally well-below government standards for whole-body contact, according to Drew Holt, director of the Elk River Watershed Improvement Association (ERWIA).
“The exception is after heavy rainfall events that result in a lot of stormwater runoff entering our streams and rivers,” said Holt, in a prepared statement.
The most common recreational water illness is diarrhea caused by swallowing water contaminated by disease causing organisms such as Cryptosporidium or Giardia.
Tests conducted May 22 on streams and rivers in Jasper County show only one with an elevated bacteria count — Center Creek in Sarcoxie.