TIOGA — Two beaches at Cowanesque Lake were abruptly closed last week by Army Corps of Engineers rangers because of contamination from ground run-off.
According to Army Corps public affairs spoksperson Cynthia Mitchell, on the June 25, mandatory weekly water testing by the state department of health at the South Shore swimming area showed the presence of coliform and E.coli from fecal matter.
Mitchell said that beach and Tompkins Campground were immediately posted once the Corps was notified by the state department of health the next day, warning the public to stay out of the water.
“There were people in the water at the time and they were told by rangers to vacate the water, which they did,” Mitchell said.
According to Mitchell, the contamination came from run-off from heavy rains the day before, Monday, June 24.
Testing was done Tuesday, as it is done each week, and in each one of the three different locations, left, center and right, the results came up too high for the bacteria.
“The water there tested positive for total coliform which includes coliform, fecal coliform, and E.coli. We look for a result of 235 and anything over that is an automatic fail,” Mitchell said.
According to Mitchell, the left tested 193.5, the center, 248.1 and the right was 145, so the average was 186.6.
“As soon as we received those results, within 20 minutes we had closure signs up at the two beaches on Wednesday, June 26,” she said.
But even though the signs were up, “we had folks that were bypassing the signs and still getting into the water, so we had to use cautionary tape so we could keep people completely out,” she added.
So far, no reports of illness from the contamination have been received, Mitchell said.
Water at the Ives Run recreation area was in the normal range.
The following day, Thursday, June 27, Mitchell said the water at both locations passed water quality testing and the areas were re-opened to the public.
“They were re-opened on Friday, June 28. We re-tested on Thursday, June 27, and we received verbal confirmation on Friday that they were OK to be re-opened, but we still had to get an official clearance from the department of health,” she added.
According to Nate Wardle, press secretary with the state Department of Health, confirmed that Cowanesque Lake failed a water quality test on June 26, as a result of samples collected the previous day.
“They re-sampled the next day and were approved to reopen the beaches on Friday, June 28. The levels of E.coli were found to be high,” Wardle said.
Last weekend, the lake remained open outside of the swim areas for boat, fishing and recreating. All boat launches and shoreline access were also open.
Mitchell said this was not the first time Cowanesque has failed water quality testing.
The last closure at the lake was May 28 due to a failed test, she said.
“We retested on June 4 and re-opened on June 5 after being cleared.
And it could happen again, she added.
“Unfortunately with run-off, it ends up washing into the reservoirs, so we can’t stop it, it comes with heavy rains.”