Albert Midoux of Anderson, a leading voice in environmental protection matters, years ago had warned that the algae growth from agricultural waste and point source pollution had reached its limit. Midoux photographed this section of the Elk River in October 2005 along with his observations of poultry blood and guts spills nearby. Newton County contributes 238 sq. miles to the Elk River watershed with Neosho the largest city contributor in Missouri. The watershed takes in the corners of four states--northwest Arkansas, southwest Missouri, southeast Kansas, and northeast Oklahoma.
The Newton County Health Department is advising the public to “Swim At Your Own Risk” for all Newton County creeks and streams. People at highest risk include children, elderly, and persons with compromised immune systems. If you choose to swim in these waters it is recommended to avoid accidental ingestion of water. It is also recommended to practice good hand washing before smoking, eating, or drinking after swimming or other incidental hand contact with creek water while fishing, wading, and canoeing.
Based on data collected in 2006, Newton County creeks and streams were often found to exceed the US EPA recommended standard for E. coli bacteria. In general these levels were found to be highest after heavy rainfall events. High levels of E. coli indicate that there may be pathogenic microorganisms present that increase the public’s risk for gastrointestinal illness or other more serious illness.....
The Newton County Health Department has issued the above precautionary statement when swimming and recreating in area creeks and streams because water quality monitoring for E. coli bacteria in 2006 and early 2007 has shown bacteria levels higher than recommended the Missouri and EPA standards.
The public shouldn’t avoid utilizing these recreational waters, just simply take precautions, Bob Kulp, Newton County health department administrator, advises. While swimming, avoid ingestion of water and practice good hygiene and hand washing after contact with the water were his suggestions.
The highest E. coli levels are typically found after heavy rainfall events. However, based upon testing done by the Newton County Health Department, some waters have been found to have consistently high E. coli levels throughout the year.
High levels of E. coli indicate that there may be pathogenic microorganisms present that increase the public’s risk for gastrointestinal illness or other more serious illness. The most common signs of gastrointestinal illness include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
High bacterial levels do not mean a person will become sick, but means there is a higher risk for becoming sick. Kulp warns that even when bacteria levels are low there is still some risk for contracting illness. Creeks and streams are not as safe as swimming pools which have filtered and chlorinated water.
Recently the Missouri Clean Water Commission listed four creeks in Newton County as impaired due to high E. coli levels. Hickory, Capps, Indian, and Lost Creeks are now on the State of Missouri impaired waters list.
The Newton County Health Department will be posting advisories on area public access points. For more information, contact them at (417) 451-6549 or go here.