|The Newton County Health Department is advising the public to take precautions this year when swimming and recreating in area creeks and streams. Recent sampling data in Newton County confirms that many area creeks and streams still have elevated levels of E coli bacteria.
Past sampling in 2006 and 2007 resulted in the listing or proposed listing by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of many area creeks (Clear Creek, Capps Creek, Indian Creek, Shoal Creek, Lost Creek and Hickory Creek) as impaired for bacteriological contamination. Data collected on June 22, 2009 confirmed that several of these creeks were at levels considered by the EPA as unsafe (E coli greater than 126) for swimming.
Recently a waterborne disease outbreak on the Oklahoma River in Oklahoma City resulted after a triathlon event was held after sampling revealed elevated levels of E coli. More than 40 participants ended up with gastrointestinal illness from an unknown pathogen.
Especially after heavy rains fecal material is often flushed into creeks, lakes, and ponds and increases the possibility of disease causing organisms being present in the water. The most common symptoms of waterborne illness are nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Fortunately there have not been any documented waterborne disease outbreaks in Newton County, but isolated cases often go unreported or are often dismissed as being attributed to something else.
For those heading to the creeks the best advice is to avoid accidental ingestion of the water and to practice good personal hygiene, especially washing hands before handling food, consumption of food and beverages, and even smoking.
Copies of the sampling results are available upon request. Contact the Newton County Health Department, Environmental Health section at (417) 451-3743, ext. 3.