No swimming until problem is addressed
or residents living near a 17-acre lake in southern Platte County, there are many perks.
There is plenty of fresh fish to eat. A place to cool off when the sun is really high in the sky. Sounds of wildlife to lull residents at the end of the day.
Viewed from this perspective, who wouldn’t want to live near a lake? But as temperatures recently rose and rain fell, residents of this lakeside community were informed they would not be able to enjoy their biggest asset until the water quality is improved.
Houston Lake’s beach was closed on Sunday, June 21, due to “extremely high fecal” bacteria levels. No swimming is allowed at this time.
“When we received the test results on Tuesday, June 16, the fecal came back at 520 (fecal colonies per 100 millimeters of water). We immediately took another water sample. That came back with fecal at 870, so we closed the lake,” Kerry Hallowell, president of the Houston Lake Homes Association, wrote in a letter to Houston Lake residents.
Sharron DeLaFuente, who tested the water on a monthly basis, said levels are the highest she has seen since testing began in 1990. DeLafuente said testing has been turned over to the Houston Lake Homes Association for further analysis.
High fecal bacteria levels could be the result of human or animal waste, including a sewage leak.
Hallowell has teamed up with the superintendent of sewage overflow with the Kansas City Missouri Water Department to “identify the source of contamination.”
“We took four additional water samples in four different locations. Those results came back even worse, with higher fecal and E. coli,” wrote Hallowell.
Dye was deposited into several manholes on Monday to locate any leaks or cracks in the sewer lines.
“We must identify the source before we can fix this very serious problem,” added Hallowell.
The Department of Natural Resources has been notified about the situation and is actively working with local officials to help identify the source.
A spokesperson with the Department of Natural Resources said the levels are higher than what animal waste could cause.
“If those levels are still that high over the holiday weekend, I would not recommend getting into the water,” the spokesperson said.
Jake Allman, a fisheries management biologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation, said fish from the lake are still safe to eat.
“E. coli doesn’t affect fish and wildlife the way it does humans,” said Allman.
When it rains this time of year, lakes sometimes have high E. coli levels, he added.
Houston Lake is an aging lake. Its once 35-ft. depth has slowly dwindled down to an overall single-digit depth.
Over decades, the lake has been inundated with silt from upstream development. The silt has trapped a lot of sediment.
Last year, the lake was dredged near the north side peninsula, where sediment washes heavily into the lake. The effort did improve the lake’s depth in certain problematic and shallow areas.
Houston Lake has a population of about 250 residents.