Local officials explain E. coli contamination
Having intestinal problems? Is it Escherichia coli or something else?
Brandi Earp, regional epidemiologist at the Purchase District Health Department, said E. coli cases are not uncommon, but occur less frequently than other gastrointestinal illnesses. Earp said E. coli can end up just about anywhere, but is originally transferred through feces. Symptoms are different for everyone, but generally include diarrhea, cramps and fever.
So how do you avoid E. coli? During a Tuesday afternoon seminar at West Kentucky Community & Technical College, Andrea Fredenburg of the Kentucky Division of Water in Frankfort recommended avoiding waterways after recent rainfall, avoiding contact with wounds, eyes, mouth, nose and ears and washing immediately after swimming and before drinking or eating.
E. coli can contaminate waterways through faulty septic systems, sanitary waste water discharge and farm animals wading in streams, Fredenburg said.
In August, the Division of Water reported several E. coli contaminated areas in the Clark’s River watershed.
Fredenburg, who has been working for the Total Maximum Daily Load department within the Division of Water since 2003, said nearly 50 samples were collected from the watershed, which spans portions of McCracken, Marshall, Calloway and Graves counties. Of those samples, 41 were impaired, or returned data with higher than allowable E. coli levels as determined by the Clean Water Act. Total maximum daily loads express the amount of a pollutant that can be allowed into a body of water while still meeting clean water requirements.
The Division of Water established a Clark’s River TMDL on Sept. 30. The document does not impose any new regulations, but hopes to educate landowners on ways to help reduce contamination levels.
How can you help? Fredenburg advises landowners to maintain septic systems, clean up after pets, limit domesticated animal access to streams and form or join local water quality groups.
Maggie Morgan, Four Rivers Basin coordinator, said since a watershed plan was developed about six years ago, the Four Rivers Basin Team has identified five critical areas of water pollutants, including E. coli, sediments and nutrients, and is working to correct those problems.
The critical areas are Clayton Creek, Bee Creek, Damon Creek and a problematic septic area, all in Calloway County, and Chestnut Creek in Marshall County. Since that time, 22 septic systems have been replaced or repaired in the problematic septic area, Clayton Creek and Damon Creek. Morgan said a waste treatment lagoon is also in the works in the Damon Creek watershed, which will serve about 40 households. The basin team has also implemented an equine waste storage facility in the Bee Creek watershed and a grassed waterway and grade control project throughout the area.