Steamboat Lake State Park swim beach reopens

Ranger says test results from Friday sample show “essentially zero” E. coli level

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About E. Coli

Escherichia coli are a large and diverse group of bacteria. Although most strains of E. coli are harmless, others can make you sick. Some kinds of E. coli can cause diarrhea, while others cause urinary tract infections, respiratory illness and pneumonia, and other illnesses.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Staying safe in the water

In a release issued May 24, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environ­ment officials reminded swimmers, boaters and fishers to practice healthy swimming to prevent water illnesses.

Tips for swimmers:

■ Don’t swim when you have diarrhea.

■ Don’t swallow pool water or spray water bottles filled with pool water at each other at the risk of inhaling mist or swallowing contaminated water.

■ Practice good hygiene. Shower with soap before swimming and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers. Germs on your body end up in the water.

Tips for parents:

■ Don’t allow infants or children with diarrhea to enter the water.

■ Wash children thoroughly (especially the rear end) with soap and water before they go swimming.

■ Check pool water yourself using test strips purchased at your local hardware or pool supply store.

■ Ask the pool operator about chlorine and pH levels and request information on the latest pool inspection score.

■ Encourage pool operators to take steps shown to kill the germs that cause water illnesses.

■ Educate other swimmers about water illnesses to promote healthy swimming.

More information about healthy swimming is at www.cdc.gov/healthyswimming.

Steamboat Lake State Park reopened its swim beach Sunday after test results from a Friday sample showed E. coli levels that a park ranger called “essentially zero.”

Senior Ranger Brent Louns­bury said Sunday morning that the results from Quality-Water Bio-Lab in Broomfield showed drastically reduced levels of E. coli bacteria, the presence of which closed the park’s swim beach Friday and Saturday.

“The technician I spoke with advised that a spike with a rapid drop-off is typical. He said that the bacteria does not survive well in cold,” Lounsbury wrote in an e-mail. “While it remains a mystery as to what the source of the bacteria was, whether it was upstream or on the park, our swim beach is now 100 percent safe.”

Friday, Lounsbury said the E. coli level was slightly above the limit that requires closure of the beach as a safety precaution. The park in North Routt County tests the water weekly for the bacteria, and twice a week on peak summer weekends, he said.

Park Ranger Matthew Schuler said in an e-mail that the park is required to close the swim beach when E. coli densities reach 235 organisms per 100 milliliters. Park officials tested the water Wednesday and were notified Friday that E. coli levels were at 251.3. The lake is typically at less than one or zero, Schuler wrote.

The results from Friday’s sample showed a level of less than one organism per 100 milliliters.

“Most of our tests are the same result as this one, where they say it’s less than 1,” Lounsbury said Sunday.

Lounsbury said “the usual number of people” — three to six — were swimming at the beach Sunday.

He said he talked about the isolated test result with other North Routt guest-related businesses.

“I haven’t had a whole lot of inquiries from the public about it, or at least not that have gotten back to me,” he said about the incident.

He said park officials are not yet planning to change their testing policies.

“I think more than (one to two tests per week) would be unnecessary and excessive at this point,” he said Sunday. “But if we do get any more positive results back and it seems like an issue of concern … we’ll certainly change our testing policies to adapt to whatever the situation dictates.”

Those with questions can call Steamboat Lake State Park at 970-879-3922. During the two-day closure, Steamboat Lake remained open to boating, water skiing and other recreation. The beach’s picnic tables can be used, as well, Lounsbury said. Only swimming was prohibited.

E. coli is a bacteria that is found in the intestines of animals, including humans, and spread through feces. It can cause illness if ingested. According to information from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, symptoms of illness from E. coli typically appear within two to four days of exposure but can take as many as eight days.

“Most people recover without antibiotics or other specific treatment in 5-10 days,” the EPA’s Web site states. “There is no evidence that antibiotics improve the course of disease. … Antidiarrheal agents, such as loperamide (Imodium), should also be avoided.”

Suzi Mariano, spokeswoman for the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, said late last week that her agency hadn’t heard of any reported cases of E. coli in the area.

Lounsbury said Steamboat Lake’s swim beach hadn’t been shut down because of E. coli in the four years he has worked at the park. He said no one reported health problems related to the bacteria during the weekend.

He said he doesn’t have a definite source of the elevated E. coli levels. The swim beach is closed to dogs, and he said all the water sources that enter Steamboat Lake are natural.

Lounsbury also noted that the higher E. coli levels were present only in a small corner of the 1,100-surface-acre lake.

“This is a little 10-yard-by-30-yard square we test,” he said last week.

City editor Blythe Terrell contributed to this story.

— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4233 or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

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