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      Constant vigilance keeps Lake of the Ozarks clean

      The water in Lake of the Ozarks remains among the highest quality in the state of Missouri, according to test results.

      The Osage Beach-based organization is partnered with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and has worked with nonprofit groups to ensure that the lake water is tested regularly for harmful bacteria, in order to keep it safe for swimming and fishing.

      Jim Divincen said heavy rains in August left a mess for volunteers to clean up, but the lake water cycled through the Bagnell Dam in a short period of time.

      "We have the Truman Dam that releases water and Bagnell Dam that releases water, so we're constantly getting a new water cycle through the lake," Divencen said. "If you'd have come back three to four days later, it would have looked just like it does now."

      Divencen said after the heavy rains in August, volunteers came together to clean debris off the lake's shores. He said as with during the rest of the recreation season, the lake's public beaches were tested every Monday for harmful e. coli bacteria.

      Generally, Divencen says, those results consistantly show that the lake is a safe place to swim. In order to test the water, officials from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources take water samples from each of the public beaches and allow them to culture inside a lab. Then, scientists count each bacteria colony in each sample.

      The number scientists use to determine water quality comes from the geometric mean of all samples taken. That means, for example, if volunteers take 20 water Samples from Lake of the Ozarks, scientists will count the number of bacteria colonies in each sample, and multiply those numbers together, then divide the resulting number by the number of how many samples were taken.

      The maximum resulting number allowed in Missouri waterways is currently 190 colony of e. coli per 100 milliliters of water. When the entire lake was last tested in 2011, the geometric mean for the lake was 3.0, out of 285 samples taken. That means, the water tested exceptionally clean that year. Divincen says the numbers for 2012 and 2013 generally show the same thing.

      "This is the most tested body of water in the state of Missouri," Divincen said.

      The Department of Natural Resources even removed a flock of geese that made Public Beach Number Two its home and relocated them to another park, in order to keep beachgoers safe from e. coli bacteria that could get into the water as a result of the animal presence.

      Camden County has also taken a number of steps to protect the water quality of Lake of the Ozarks. The county recently passed an ordinance allowing the Camden County Health Department to enter anyone's property regarding a possible wastewater system breach without first receiving a formal written complaint.

      Camden County also passed ordinances regulating septic pump-out companies on where they can unload their wastewater, and requiring homeowners to have an operating agreement with the county regarding septic systems.

      Even with consistant oversight and new ordinances, residents say everyone should pitch in to keep the lake clean.

      "One thing I would like to see is more respect for the lake," said resident Darin Puppel. "I hate walking along the shore and seeing bottles and garbage bags and all that."

      By working together, mid-Missouri can help protect one of its most valuable resources.