The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

June 22, 2013

Recent water sampling finds more than half of area sites show elevated E. coli levels

From staff reports

JOPLIN, Mo. — Brandy Milner and his family made the drive from their Purcell home to Stones Corner Saturday to cool off in Center Creek as temperatures reached 90 degrees. Milner said he has been coming to the popular stream access on Missouri Highway 43 for more than 12 years.

“We’ve got a pool at home, but we come here a lot because it is fun and it’s different than getting into your backyard. There are always new people to meet here and once the summer gets in gear, this place will be packed,” he said.

“I mowed the lawn today and I thought this was the perfect day to take a swim with my family,” he said. “I pass by here every morning on the way to work and it always looks inviting and today was the day to finally make it down here.”

Temperatures weren’t the only reason to consider Stone’s Corner Saturday.

According to water sampling done by the Jasper County Health Department, the site was safe for swimming, with E. coli levels below the state and federal level of concern for several weeks now.

But that wasn’t the case with other sites tested last week.

In fact, more than half of 29 stream and river sites in the area that were tested last week for E. coli  showed levels of the bacteria elevated to the point that it can make swimming unsafe.

According to state and federal health departments, a standard higher than 235 colony-forming units (cfu) of E. coli per 100 milliliters of water means the river or stream is not recommended for swimming or whole-body contact.

Jasper County officials last week tested 21 sites, finding 14 of them elevated; Newton County officials tested six sites, finding one of them elevated; the Eastern Shawnee tribe tested two sites, finding one was elevated.

In Jasper County, three of seven sites tested on upper Center Creek showed elevated levels, but from Missouri Highway 171 to the state line, the sites were at safe levels.

Jones Creek and Dry Fork in eastern Jasper County also were safe, but all locations tested along the North Fork of Spring River and on Spring River were high, including Kellogg Lake at Carthage.

Two of three sites tested on Turkey Creek also were high.

In Newton County, testing of sites on Hickory Creek and Shoal Creek showed they were below levels of concern, including the Tipton Ford access south of Joplin. Lost Creek in Seneca was elevated but Little Lost Creek at Seneca City Park was safe.

However, the Eastern Shawnee tribe, which does its own testing, reported that Lost Creek at the Missouri-Oklahoma state line was below the standard, but the Spring River at Oklahoma Highway 10 had elevated levels of E. coli.

E. coli is a bacteria found in the intestines of warm-blooded animals, including humans, livestock, poultry and wildlife. Some forms of it indicate fecal contamination in water from septic tank and sewage problems, agricultural runoff and more. High levels of it indicate the possibility that disease-causing organisms, called pathogens, may be present.

At high levels, the bacteria can cause illnesses ranging from meningitis to urinary tract infections.

Five state park swimming beaches have temporarily closed for water quality issues, according to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

The state park beaches at Harry S Truman located in Warsaw, Lake of the Ozarks’ Grand Glaize beach located in Osage Beach, Pomme de Terre’s Pittsburg beach located in Pittsburg, St. Joe’s Monsanto Lake beach located in Park Hills and Wakonda located in La Grange are closed following results of water samples taken last week that indicated bacteria levels higher than recommended for swimming.