E. coli found in Lake of the Ozarks

Water testing at the Lake of the Ozarks reveals levels of E. coli bacteria higher than the state's acceptable limits. The high levels were found in three of the 62 samples taken, all three coming from coves on Horseshoe Bend. KRCG's Mallory McGowin learned more about what it means for visitors to the Lake.

The three bad samples came from two different coves, two samples from the Jennings Branch Cove, located at the one mile marker. The other sample came from what the state lists as Cove 009. It's located between Cherokee Road and Kay's Point Road off Horseshoe Bend.

"Those three samples were above the standard, 59 of the 62 were below the standard, most of those, about 54 of them, were well below the standard, so overall I don't think there's big cause for alarm by any means. It seems to be very isolated, but again we only have one set of data," says Scott Robinett, Department of Natural Resources Environmental Specialist.

"This is just the first test. We're going to need some confirmation tests to follow up to make sure that everything is accurate," says Marvin Mondy, a member of the Lake of the Ozarks Watershed Alliance.

The state is beginning their investigation looking for sources of the bacteria. So, until then, I wanted to know, is the water safe?

"The more whole body contact, contact with mucus membranes of the body, the eyes, nose, mouth, that's how water borne diseases get transmitted," says Robinett.

"I think it would be premature of us to say don't jump in the water, don't swim. Personally, I would not, not until I had a better picture of what was going on," says Mondy.

The water testing was a combined effort between the Department of Natural Resources and the Lake of the Ozarks Watershed Alliance, better known as LOWA. LOWA helps to make these tests possible by providing volunteers and boats to collect the samples. The DNR budget only allows for approximately 20 coves to be tested. With LOWA's help, that number will triple. DNR trains the LOWA volunteers that gather the water samples, a courrier then comes to them and picks up the samples and brings them to DNR's makeshift lab in Lake Ozark.

DNR and LOWA will be taking water samples from the Lake every month for the next six months. They will then repeat the process each year, testing different coves. The combined program is scheduled to run for five years.