Waterway E. Coli dangers in Ky.


by Michaela MacDonald


Posted on July 17, 2014 at 4:15 PM

Updated Thursday, Jul 17 at 6:58 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11)-- An E. coli warning issued for swimmers and boaters in eastern Kentucky has been extended to some waterways around the state after recent rainfall.

One local waterway known to have problems with bacteria after rainfall is Beargrass Creek, a place many people swim in.

Tim Joice with the Kentucky Waterways Alliance said after heavy rainfall, sewer systems can back up and flow directly into creeks causing high levels of e. coli bacteria.

Joice said E. Coli bacteria can be harmful if you ingest it. And if it gets in an open wound it can cause a serious infection. 

"Somebody that is kayaking or canoeing in a stream if you cut yourself get in would and cause an infection and it can can become extremely severe, the infection," Joice said.

Creek-goers we spoke with say they pay attention to posted warnings and are careful after it rains. 

"We definitely take precautions," Cristin Chester said.

Another frequenter of the creek doesn’t swim in the water, just her and her family just splashes around. 

"We don't really get in that often and if we do we're just kind of splashing around we're not going under or swimming or anything like that," Ashley Hayes said. 

One visitor knows how rain can affect the water and plays by the rules to keep her family safe. 

"After it rains there's a lot of water rushing through, so I know we're not supposed to get in after the rain," said Rosemary Flinn. 

Below are some tips from the Metro Health Department:
1. Avoid swimming after heavy rainfall.
After heavy rainfall, rain collects pollutants from our streets, gardens and farms, before it flushes into rivers, streams and creeks. This can increase bacterial and chemical levels in the water and make the water unsafe for swimming, especially if you put your head under or swallow the water.
As a precaution people should avoid swimming:
1 day after heavy rainfall (1/2 inch) in coastal waters. 
3 days after heavy rainfall (1/2 inch) in river/estuarine systems. 
2. Do not swim in water that looks discolored, murky, or smells unpleasant.
Murky, discolored or smelly water is a clear sign that something might not be right in the water and you should avoid swimming if you notice any of these signs. 
3. Look for posted warning signs and follow the advice on them.
When pollution is detected in a water body (e.g. after a sewage spill or algal bloom) health warning signs may be installed to warn the public not to use the water. If you notice a health warning sign then follow the advice and do not go swimming. 
4. Avoid swallowing water or putting your head under water if you are unsure about its quality.
If a water body is polluted with bacteria or algae you will increase your risk of getting ill if you swallow the water. If you are unsure about a particular waterway you should not put your head under the water because you may end up swallowing some water and get sick.
5. Avoid swimming if you have an open wound or infection.
If you have an open wound or infection and go swimming in water that is polluted your infection may become more infected! Reduce your risk and do not go swimming if you have an open wound or infection.
6. Do not add to the risk; use appropriate toilet facilities.
Make sure you use proper toilet facilities when you need to go to the toilet. Do not put yourself or others health at risk by using natural waterways as a toilet.
7. Take children on bathroom breaks regularly.
Young children need to be taken on regular toilet breaks so they do not use our natural waters as a toilet.
8. Don’t swim if you are feeling ill (diarrhea or vomiting).
You will put yourself and other swimmers health at risk if you swim while feeling ill, particularly gastroenteritis symptoms such as diarrhea or vomiting. 
9. Dispose of human waste hygienically when boating.
It is important that you dispose of your toilet wastes properly and not near areas where people go swimming. 
10. Avoid swimming in warm, slow moving, stagnant water or next to storm water drains.
11. Before swimming in any local river, stream or creek, consult the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection swimming advisory page at http://water.ky.gov/waterquality/Pages/SwimmingAdvisories.aspx to see if the particular body of water you plan to swim in is under a swimming advisory.
12. Take a shower as soon as possible after swimming or wading in a lake, river or stream.
13. Sanitize your hand before eating.
If you are boating or fishing, bring along hand sanitizer and use it before eating food or drinking beverages.