Bacteria levels reach record high at Ohio lake

The Associated PressJuly 16, 2014 

— Harmful bacteria levels have reached record levels at a popular central Ohio lake, leading officials to post advisories warning people not to go in the water.

Swimming advisories were issued for two beaches at Buckeye Lake east of Columbus after E. coli levels reached record highs this month. It's one of the state's largest inland lakes and a popular summer destination for swimmers and boaters.

Both of the beaches remain open despite tests in early July showing E. coli levels more than 40 times higher than the federal safety threshold for swimming. In fact, this week there are nearly 30 beaches on Lake Erie and at inland lakes where E. coli levels exceeded the federal safety threshold.

Sewage overflows, failing home septic systems and feces from geese and gulls contribute to E. coli problems. If ingested, E. coli can cause gastrointestinal distress, such as diarrhea, vomiting and stomach cramps.

Mary Clifton, recreation programs administrator for the Ohio Department of Health, told The Columbus Dispatch (http://bit.ly/1kvihNQ) that the state doesn't want to shut down the beaches. Officials would rather let visitors decide for themselves whether to use the lake.

"Ohio typically would prefer that consumers and constituents be able to make an informed decision, instead of dictating the use of the recreational waters of the state," Clifton said.

Timothy Buckley, a former Ohio State University researcher who studied E. coli at inland lakes, said once the bacteria is in the water, there isn't much anyone can do but let it work its way out.

Mark Bruce, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, said in an email that state officials are trying to limit geese at beaches to reduce E. coli.

At Buckeye Lake, the centerpiece of one of Ohio's oldest state parks, signs warning of high bacteria levels are next to those alerting visitors about toxic blue-green algae. Both have plagued the lake in recent years.

Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com

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