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Newton County Health Dept. Won't Test Waterways but Offers Advice for Swimmers about E-coli and Water Safety

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Safety for Creek and River Swimmers Safety for Creek and River Swimmers
Spring rains can make popular swimming holes a dangerous spot to play.

  And this year the Newton County Health Department will not be testing for e-coli and other contaminants.     

It’s not even officially summer and the Grand Falls area in Newton County is swimming with activity.

Mitchell Ramsey and Chris Ball came up from Springdale Arkansas to join friends here.  They say they enjoy, “Fishing, swimming, bluff jumping, stuff like that.  Grilling and  camping out.”

 The water here is part of Shoal Creek and officials say after recent rains there’s a good chance levels of E-coli are high.

Newton County Health Department Director Bob Kulp says of rain, “It flushes everything off the land into the creek and unfortunately there’s going to be fecal material, either from septic systems, it  could be from livestock, or could be from wildlife.”

Kulp says water fowl are contributors too. And he warns even if E-coli numbers are reported low, waterways are not guaranteed to be one hundred percent safe.

 Kulp says, “There’s still some risk if you ingest water while swimming.  I don’t care if it’s a creek, lake, or pond there is a potential you might  come down with some disease from bacteria virus or parasite. Swimmers at the falls say that’s never been a problem.

Mitchell says, “I’ve never gotten sick.”

Chris says, “I usually go under water.” Mitchell chimes in, “Go under, yeah.” And Chris adds, “See if you can see anything.”

Others aren’t taking chances.

Sarah Rogers, a Galena resident who’s visited the falls before says, “My daughter swims in this water, me, I wouldn't get in this water if you paid me.”

While most swimmers at the falls aren’t worried about contamination others a the creek say it’s important that testing be done.

Robert Strain from Afton but moving to Joplin, says, “I know Grand Lake’s doing that and they check it frequently.”

Kulp says they can't test all swimming holes and isolated rain showers could affect levels.

 So he says the best advice is look before you leap into natural waterways.

Kulp says, “If the water looks a little murky and muddy and the creek  appears to be up, there’s a pretty reasonable  chance those E-coli levels are high. And the higher the E-coli, the greater the risk of something being in the water like cryptosporidium or something like that.”

Previous testing was funded through grant dollars.

Cryptosporidium and giardia have been discovered in local creeks.

Kulp says he's seen several cases of illness and says accidental ingestion is pretty easy if water is on your lips or hands.

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