Clark County Public Health announced Tuesday it has closed Vancouver Lake to swimmers and waders after finding elevated levels of E. coli bacteria during routine testing Monday.
E. coli is a bacteria that lives in human and animal intestines. The presence of E. coli at the lake indicates the water may contain bacteria found in animal or human feces, according to Public Health.
The agency collected six samples from the lake, and three came back above the Environmental Protection Agency’s threshold of 235 colony-forming units per 100 milliliters of water. One sample was right below that threshold, and three other samples taken from the swim beach area were more than twice the threshold at 365.4, 325.5 and 579.4.
“The higher the concentration, the greater the risk” of getting sick, Clark County Public Health Officer Dr. Alan Melnick said.
E. coli can cause serious gastrointestinal illness. Symptoms include fever, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, which can sometimes be bloody.
Closure signs have been placed at Vancouver Lake, and Public Health will continue monitoring the water quality. Vancouver Lake Regional Park remains open, and water in park shelters and restrooms is safe.
Melnick said it’s especially important to keep children out of the lake because they’re more likely to accidentally swallow water.
He explained that a microscopic amount of fecal matter can cause sickness, so it’s important for people to do their best to protect Vancouver Lake and other bodies of water from fecal contamination. That means not letting kids swim in the lake if they aren’t potty-trained. Swim diapers aren’t a useful deterrent, he said, and recently potty-trained children should take a break from swimming on the hour to prevent accidents. Melnick said people should not let their dogs poop in the water.
“We can’t be there all the time to police this so that fecal material doesn’t get in the water,” he said.
While fishing is allowed, people should take precautions to avoid water contact, and if contact occurs, should wash their hands with soap and water. Fishing equipment should be thoroughly cleaned. All fish should be cooked, not eaten raw.
Vancouver Lake was previously placed under a warning for elevated levels of cyanotoxins. Those test results are expected back later this week.