Columbia/Boone County Health Department updates water quality

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COLUMBIA – Columbia/Boone County Health Department updated information on local lake water quality for the summer.

The Health Department’s Public Information Officer, Andrea Waner, said the department waits until the temperature stays consistently warm to start weekly tests.

“We will go out during the warm months of the year, so usually Memorial Day through Labor Day,” Waner said. “We test the natural bathing areas and it’s held up against the guidelines of the EPA.”

The Department collects a bottle of water from a location and tests it at its in-house lab. According to the Department's website, a lake must not exceed 200 coliform per 100 milliliters and 126 E. coli per 100 milliliters for at least three weeks, or action is taken.

According to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the level of E. coli is an indicator of the overall level of bacteria in the water.

Below are the test results for E.coli per 100 milliliters:

  • Cedar Lake: 23.1
  • Hinkson Creek at Capen Park: 5.2
  • Katy Lake: 5.2
  • Woodrail Lake: 8.6
  • Stephen’s lake: 20.9

Stephen’s Lake, Flat Branch Park Creek and Flat Branch at Stadium are tested weekly.

“The ones we test weekly are typically the one’s that we use more often as well as they’ve historically have higher counts of E. coli,” Waner said.

KOMU looked at 2015's water quality analysis. Hinkson Creek's water quality was better this month that last year.

Hinkson Creek's test results for E. coli in 2015 were:

  • 6/02/15: 133.6
  • 6/10/15: 344.1
  • 6/24/15: 285.1
  • 6/30/15: 260.3
  • 7/06/15: 214.2
  • 7/15/15: 201.4
  • 7/23/15: 261.3
  • 7/29/15: 127.4
  • 8/04/15: 56.5
  • 9/01/15: 79.4

June and July 2015 test results all exceeded the EPA's requirement.

Hinkson Creek's water quality is at 5.2 this month. 

Waner said what caused the change is dependent on the day the department is taking the sample.

"I couldn't speak to what the situations were like last year in terms of why they were so different," Waner said.

Waner said the Health Department only analyzes the presence and absence of bacteria. 

According to an EPA report of Hinkson Creek, mulptiple stressors and pollutants contibuted to Hinkson Creek's poor water quality. The report suggested that reducing stormwater runoff to the creek would help improve Hinkson's water quality.

If a body of water continually tests above the EPA maximums three times in a row, the department will continue to test it and post a sign recommending people to not swim.

However, the health department does not have the authority to close down a beach. Waner said it contacts the proprietor of the body of water, such as Parks and Recreation or a specific neighborhood association.