by Katheryn Wall, Springfield Greene County Health
The upcoming Memorial Day holiday means it is the summer season for the Springfield-Greene County Health Department. That marks the start of two warm-weather surveillance programs: stream water testing and heat-related illness.
To provide information on the quality of water in local lakes and streams, the Health Department partners with the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks to monitor select stream and river locations in Greene County for the presence of E. coli.
Samples are collected from five area swimming locations weekly by the Watershed Committee, and tested by the health department lab staff.
Sites are selected based on their accessibility and the likelihood that people might come in contact with the water.
Those locations are on:
- James River
- Galloway Creek
- Lake Springfield
- Little Sac River
- Wilson’s Creek
The health department does not regulate these sites in any way and these are not dedicated public access points. The information is provided as a community service.
The latest results can be found at http://health.springfieldmo.gov/summer. Results are generally posted once a week on Thursdays. Testing typically runs from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
In light of significant flooding in our area over the last week, bacteria levels in all tested sites are high. The Health Department recommends exercising caution and using healthy swimming practices to avoid illness from recreational waters.
The most common recreational water illness is diarrhea, which is caused by swallowing water contaminated by E. coli, Shigella, Giardia or Cryptosporidium. To help protect your family from recreational water illnesses, follow these healthy swimming tips:
- Do not swim after heavy rains, or if the water is murky. Bacterial levels are often elevated in stormwater runoff.
- Do not swim when you have diarrhea. You may spread bacteria and make other people sick.
- Do not swallow stream water; and if possible avoid getting it in your mouth altogether.
- Practice good hygiene. Bacteria from your hands could end up on your food.
- When water is contaminated or conditions are uncertain, avoid full-body contact water activities such as swimming and diving.
The Health Department tracks instances of various heat-related illnesses each year, including heat exhaustion and heat stroke. These illnesses are entirely preventable, yet many instances occur every summer. Conditions such as age, obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburn, and prescription drug and alcohol use can increase the risk for heat-related illness.
The keys to preventing heat-related illness are hydration and avoiding direct sun for long periods of time. For more tips to beat the heat and to see the latest numbers throughout the season, visit http://health.springfieldmo.gov/summer.