Tests confirm lake is safe

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Although heavy rainfall often leaves area waterways looking murky, recent flooding has not made the water in Table Rock Lake toxic to swimmers, said David Casaletto, Table Rock Lake Water Quality, Inc., executive director.

"I feel very confident that the lake is as clean as it is every year," said Casaletto. "The flooding has had no lasting impact on water quality."

Over the last few months, Table Rock Lake Water Quality, Inc., a nonprofit environmental organization that works to keep the lake clean, has received several telephone calls and e-mails from individuals who ask if it is safe to swim in the lake.

"It seems that somewhere the public has determined that the flood from March and the continuing high water may have somehow caused unsafe conditions for whole body contact," said Casaletto. "You can never say that there cannot be something in the water that might make someone sick at any given time, but that risk is no greater this year than any other year and that risk is very, very small."

With so many calls coming into the Table Rock Water Quality office, Casaletto decided to gather water test samples from the lake to help eliminate rumors that the water is toxic.

"I decided to see if test results would back up my statements," said Casaletto. "After a few phone calls, I could find no recent lake tests for E. coli. It seems that (U.S.) Corps (of Engineers) swimming beaches are all underwater so they are not doing their normal testing."

To conduct tests at several Table Rock Lake swimming areas, Casaletto obtained recreational testing bottles from the Stone County Health Department in Galena and collected water samples at seven locations in Stone County.

According to the test results, water in all of the tested areas showed E. coli counts much lower than the Environmental Protection Agency's standard, which is 235 organisms per 100 milliliters of water.

The highest test count was taken at a boat ramp in Table Rock Estates at Highway Y-18. That test result indicated 37.4 organisms per 100 milliliters of water.

"I think that you will get the same results anywhere unless there is a localized situation, such as an area with a high animal concentration or in a campground where the water is over a toilet," said Casaletto. "E coli die off very quickly so the main body of water will be the same as here."

Casaletto encourages anyone with concerns about a swimming area to obtain a recreational water testing bottle from the Stone County Health Department and collect a sample for testing. Results are usually returned within 24 hours.

"I feel pretty comfortable saying that anywhere you go in the lake will be pretty good this year," said Casaletto. "There should be no difference this year than any other year. If I had concerns, I wouldn't take my 3 year old granddaughter in the lake."

The Stone County Health Department accepts water samples from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Certified test results cost $15. For more information, call the Stone County Health Department at 417-357-8200 or contact Table Rock Lake Water Quality at 417-739-4100 or trlwq@lvbw.net.
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