Health department tests show E. coli levels are safe for public use at Norfork Lake swim beach

BAXTER COUNTY, Ark. -- All of our great area lakes will be hopping over the long holiday weekend. Michael Deere reports on why a swim area at Norfork Lake in north Arkansas was forced to closed and now is open.

The swim beach at Bidwell Point at Norfork Lake was the only area closed down for several days after higher than acceptable levels of E. coli were found in routine water samples nearly two weeks ago by the Arkansas Department of Health.

Chief Ranger Bruce Caldwell says, In order to reopen the swim beach, several water samples were tested to determine if levels of the bacteria had decreased.

"We had to have a minimum of two and we had three tests and all three came back below the thresholds."

Caldwell says E. coli is always in lake water, just not always dangerous.

"E. coli is present anywhere warm-blooded animals and their fecal material are found. Of course an open lake like this, we have birds and mammals all over and so the water is always going to have E. coli in it....it just will. What we're talking about are thresholds where they consider it to be unsafe."

Water levels at the lake are up seven feet above normal after a rainy spring.

That means areas that are normally dry are currently under water.

Caldwell says folks should be mindful and use caution all around the lake's shores.

"Realize there's stuff hidden under that water. There's signs, posts, stumps and all kinds of things. High water will bring debris off the bank and it may be floating, so people really need to proceed with caution."

Law enforcement will be out all weekend patrolling the lake and surrounding areas.

Caldwell reminds folks to wear a live vest.

"Make sure you have all safety equipment on board. Make sure everyone is wearing their live jackets and just play safe on that water. We don't want to have to pull anybody out."

Here in the Ozarks, swimming is not recommended at some parts of Lake of the Ozarks, Truman Lake, and Pomme de Terre Lake because of high levels of e-coli.

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