The bacteriological testing program at the Lake of the Ozarks State Park's public beaches will be similar in 2011 to the process of 2010, but a few small changes could change safety monitoring in the future.


 

Editor's note: This is the second in a three-part series of stories about water quality and Lake of the Ozarks State Park. To find out more about what's planned this summer, check out the Lake Sun Weekend edition May 6-7.

The bacteriological testing program at the Lake of the Ozarks State Park's public beaches will be similar in 2011 to the process of 2010, but a few small changes could change safety monitoring in the future.

During beach-going season, samples for 15 state park beaches across Missouri are taken the first of each week and processed and analyzed at the Missouri Department of Natural Resources Environmental Services Program laboratory in Jefferson City. An interactive data map on the DNR website will be updated by 1 p.m. Friday, though some closure notifications may be made before that time, as test results are available.

"The testing process is for all intent and purposes the same as it was last year. We are going to be collecting some additional data that we didn't collect last year, things like turbidity and conductivity," Division of State Parks Director Bill Bryan said.

DNR closes beaches to tourists and swimmers when single water samples show bacteria levels above the EPA recommended maximum of 235 E. coli colonies per 100 milliliters of water (235 mpn/100ml) or when the geometric mean — a rolling average of sample data — exceeds 126 E. coli colonies per 100 ml of water (126 mpn/100ml).

All state park beaches have been closed since September, but testing is already underway at some sites.

"In an effort to have a more robust dataset and a more scientifically sound approach, we have started sampling earlier this year," Bryan said.

The added testing, DNR officials hope, will help biologists draw correlations between E. coli levels and other water properties such as conductivity, the water's ability to conduct an electrical current and turbitity, the cloudiness or haziness of the water. A bigger and better database may allow biologists to predict future test results.

The other change, Bryan says, will be that DNR will offer the public some additional context when beaches are closed because of elevated E. coli levels, and opened again when those levels subside.

"We can always do a better job of educating people about water quality, the environment, the work we do, and what the work means to them," Bryan said. "Reports last year were very much 'just the facts, the sample was taken, here's the result, E. coli is this.'"

By explaining that high E. coli at a beach does not necessarily impact an entire body of water, the Division of State Parks hopes the lake's visitors gain a further understanding of the monitoring program.

"What we hope to do is provide a little bit more information this year so that we can educate people on what the results mean and what they don't mean," Bryan said. "Hopefully, we provide enough information to your readers so they can make judgement on how to conduct themselves."

Contact Lake Sun reporter Rance Burger at rance.burger@lakesunonline.com.