Arkansas lakes are a joy. Clean, beautiful, and inviting during the hot Arkansas Summer, lakes in The Natural State are a huge draw for both locals and visitors. Memorial Day weekend marks the start of the summer lake season. It is however upsetting to hear that your favorite beach has closed just as the thermometer turns red. One of the reasons you may hear is that the beach is closed for “health reasons.”
The Arkansas Department of Health, Division of Environmental Health has been responsible for testing the waters at more than 200 beaches across the state since 2007. According to their website, there are three common reasons for closing down a beach due to E. coli contamination:
- Resident Canada Goose population using the managed Swim Beach area for grazing. They often eat the seed head of the grasses on the bank. Campers feeding the geese can make the situation worse by keeping the geese attracted to the area.
- Feral swine can contribute to the E. coli level and all 75 counties have a feral swine population.
- In some cases, high levels of E. coli could be produced from humans not disposing of waste properly and/or other animals in the area.
E. coli is spread through contact with contaminated food or water. Contaminated food can include raw or undercooked meat, poultry, or seafood, as well as unpasteurized milk and juices. Contaminated water can come from lakes, rivers, and streams that have been polluted with animal waste.
Symptoms of E. coli infection can include diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal cramps. In some cases, E. coli infection can lead to more serious complications, such as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which can cause kidney failure.
According to Gabby Escovedo, Senior Environmental Health Specialist with the Arkansas Department of Health, 220 Arkansas public beaches are tested 4 times during the summer swimming season for E. Coli. If a beach tests positive for above acceptable levels of E. Coli, it is shut down. Additional tests are done on the beach weekly until tests range within acceptable levels for 2 consecutive weeks.
Which beaches are closed?
The Department of Health maintains a website with a list of closed beaches. According to Escovedo, this list is updated on Thursday every week which is perfect for planning your next trip to the lake.
If you’d like some suggestions for your next trip to the lake, here is a list created by our readers as their favorite Arkansas Lakes.