Testing Waters for E-Coli & Bacteria Levels, Preventing Heat-Related Illnesses

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – It’s that time of the year when families and friends go out to lake and rivers for a fun day out in the sun.

But there are a few things to be aware of before you go out, including making sure the waters you’re going to don’t have E. Coli.

During the summer months, the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks partners with Springfield Greene County Health Department to monitor five swimming locations.

James River, Galloway Creek, Lake Springfield, Little Sac River and Wilson’s Creek.

“We sample the local streams for bacteria,” explained Stacey Armstrong Smith, the project manager at Watershed Committee, “so before people go out swimming, they can check online to see what the bacteria levels are.”

Smith said the numbers have been looking very well this week, and they will continue monitoring them weekly for the rest of the summer.

“Typically what we see is if there’s a heavy rainstorm or rain events,” said Smith, “you can get very high levels of bacteria immediately after that.”

Smith said they use EPA approved methods for water testing.

“It’s called the IDEXX method,” said Smith, “we just grab a sample, we test for E-coli bacteria, which is present in guts of warm-blooded mammals. So it can come from animals or human.”

And in addition to checking the water levels, it’s also important to look out for heat-related illnesses.

“We already had three heat illnesses this year,” said Kathryn Wall, the public health information administrator at Springfield Greene County Health Department.

Wall advised being careful outdoors.

“Sunscreen’s really important,” Wall said, “staying hydrated. Keeping in mind that alcohol and similar drinks like that are actually dehydrating. So if you’re on the lake for instance and you’re drinking, you’re actually not hydrating you are dehydrating yourself.”

Wall said you could get heat exhaustion or heat stroke if you’re out in the sun for too long.

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