Beaches at Finger Lakes closed for high bacteria concentration

Thursday, June 30, 2011 | 6:43 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The swimming beaches at Finger Lakes State Park were closed Thursday because of high levels of bacteria. The beaches will remain roped off until after the July 4 weekend.

Renee Bungart, spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, said samples taken by the department Monday indicated the presence of 387.3 E. coli colonies per 100 milliliters of water.

The Environmental Protection Agency's guideline for acceptable E. coli levels at swimming beaches is 235 E. coli colonies per 100 milliliters.

Bungart said visitors will still be able to enjoy the park. Finger Lakes will still allow boating, fishing, picnics and hiking. The bike trails and the playground will also be accessible.

"These samples don't necessarily represent the overall water quality of the lake," Bungart said.

This is the first time this season that the Finger Lakes beaches have closed, though the beaches were shut down around the same time last year for the same reason.

Bungart said there are several different potential sources for the high bacteria concentrations. High rainfall, faulty septic and sewer tanks and large concentrations of water fowl and other wildlife commonly contribute to high levels of bacteria, she said.

The department determined that heavy rainfall throughout the week most likely affected the E. coli count at the Finger Lakes beaches.

This month, Columbia has had 4.6 inches of rainfall, according to the National Weather Service in St. Louis.

Typically, the beaches are tested for bacteria on Mondays, Bungart said. However, since this coming Monday is a holiday, beaches will not be tested until Tuesday.

Swimming beaches at Cuivre River State Park and Mark Twain State Park are also closed, as is Grand Glaize Beach at Lake of the Ozarks State Park.

For the latest information, visit the department's Missouri State Park Beach Status page.

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