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Swimmers: Keep Your Mouth Shut

July 10, 2007

If you are thinking about going swimming in Iowa lakes, rivers and streams this summer, keep your mouth shut and cover open cuts. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources tests swimming areas weekly for levels of e.coli bacteria. Steve Veysey with the Iowa Sierra Club says manure runoff from livestock operations is a big part of the e.coli problem, but there's other farm runoff that swimmers should be worried about.

“Any of the herbicides, pesticides and other things that have been applied to the crops will stick to the soil particles, and when it rains, it ends up in our rivers, lakes and streams.”

Dangerous bacteria can also come from faulty home septic tanks, or from sewage treatment plants, some of which don't sanitize their discharge. Veysey warns swimmers to take precautions.

“If you are in the water, you want to consciously avoid ingesting any water, and when you get out, you should certainly take a shower. That will minimize the risk, but it doesn't remove the risk.”

Veysey adds that it is possible to improve the state's water quality by encouraging more buffer zones between farms and waterways, requiring city sewage treatment plants to disinfect their wastewater and better control of livestock runoff.

DNR water reports are online at www.wqm.igsb.uiowa.edu/activities/beach/beach.htm.

Dick Layman/Eric Mack, Public News Service - IA