UPDATE: As of July 1 water samples, E. coli levels are back to normal and the swim advisory has been lifted.
CLAY COUNTY — A swim advisory is in effect at Camp Branch Beach at Smithville Lake due to elevated E. coli levels.
“E. coli is naturally occurring and can happen after heavy rains or from various wildlife. Clay County follows the same procedures as the state of Missouri when other beaches have an elevated E. coli reading. We have posted signs at Camp Branch Beach,” states a release under the Parks and Recreation Department tab on the county's website, www.claycountymo.gov.
Camp Branch Beach is located on the east side of the lake within Camp Branch Bauman Park, across the parking lot from the Camp Branch Marina and the boat launch. It is accessible by vehicle and pedestrians and cyclists from Bonebender Trail.
“It is normal for E. coli and other bacteria to be found at naturally-occurring levels in ponds, streams, rivers, lakes and reservoirs. Elevated bacteria levels are frequently associated with heavy rains,” states a release on the Missouri Department of Natural Resources' website, dnr.mo.gov.
E. coli bacteria normally live in the intestines of healthy people and animals.
“Although most strains of E. coli are harmless, others can make you sick. Some kinds of E. coli can cause diarrhea, while others cause urinary tract infections, respiratory illness and pneumonia,” states information of the Centers for Disease Control website, www.cdc.gov.
Chief Park Ranger John Davis said the increased level is due to runoff associated with recent heavy rains and flooding. Each Monday, he said, levels of bacteria are tested at the lake. When results came in high on Tuesday, a notice was put up on the county's website along with signs at the swim beach.
“It's not closed, it's just there's an advisory,” he said. “... The E. coli levels are high so that means to be cautious. Don't drink the water. Wash and bathe after using the lake. Don't use hand sanitizer, but actually wash afterward with soap and water and all that. If you have any sickness after that, contact your physician.”
Davis said there is no advisory at Little Platte Beach.
The park ranger said water will be tested again, as it does each week, on Monday, July 1.