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E. coli bacteria poses a great health risk to those who come in contact with it. It can be found in watersheds across the Adirondack Park, and must be monitored in order to protect ourselves.
E. coli Testing Program
For 2013 our E. coli program will change based on our 2012 results. First, we will be doing State-certified sampling, which will allow us to make stronger appeals to the Department of Health whenever we get positive samples. Second, we will be training volunteers who take the samples in May and again in June so we can ensure better sampling technique and better location information (GPS longitude and latitude readings will be required). Third, as the above will add to our costs, each sample will be $50 paid in advance with the application. As in 2012 the signups will take place along with the normal ALAP (Adirondack lake Assessment Program) registrations but in 2013 non-ALAP lakes can participate individually through the Paul Smith's Adirondack Watershed Institute.
The focus of these tests will change too. In 2012 the high number of positive readings caused concerns about the follow-on, for instance, what to do if your lake produces one or more positive readings. For 2013, with State-certified samples, we will be in a position to ask the Department of Health (DOH) to change their sampling procedures for lakes that we can demonstrate to have E. coli contamination. This is their responsibility but State procedures are antiquated, having only regular testing at beach areas and binary actions (such as closing a beach) when readings exceed a high level. We believe the DOH should be doing secondary testing whenever samples are positive, tests that will determine the precise nature of the E. coli, its source (animal or human), and its potential impact on human health. Because we had many lakes in our program in 2012 and hope to have even more in 2013 the cumulative impact of these positive tests should give us a powerful argument for improved DOH testing schedules and post-processing of positive test results to isolate the contributing factors.
Our Plan for Controlling E. coli
The Department of Health regularly monitors water quality at swim and other public access areas for dangerous bacteria, notably e. coli, but it is up to private land owners or lake associations to monitor private watershed areas. We have proposed that the CSLAP and ALAP lake monitoring programs be expanded to add e. coli testing to the voluntary sampling currently done by lakeshore residents. There would obviously be different logistics as e. coli sample must be tested when fresh, and extra charges for this service, but if coordinated across the nearly 200 lakes in those programs we believe it could be done at a reasonable cost using commercial package delivery overnight services. We continue to work on this objective.