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Bacteria levels lead to closing of East Lake beach

Published Sep. 29, 2005

(ran PC edition)

Excrement spilling into the water has closed East Lake beach on Collier Parkway.

The Pasco County Health Department has yet to determine whether the feces, which produced bacteria levels in the lake about 10 times the legal limit in Florida, are animal or human.

Possibilities include sewage leaking from septic tanks in the Lakes Padgett Estates neighborhood, animal manure washed into the lake with summer rains or even excrement from migrating ducks.

East Lake beach is a private strand owned by Lake Padgett Estates Civic Association.

Despite the beach closing, boating is still allowed on the lake, although the health department suggests water skiers steer clear of the water.

Ken Swann, the county's director of environmental health, said swallowing the tainted water could be hazardous to your health.

"You could get a gastrointestinal disorder," he said. "You could also get hepatitis or ear, nose and eye infections."

The county tests water at a dozen lakes monthly. East Lake's samplings registered acceptable from February to June.

But on July 12, inspectors, drawing water from 1 foot below the surface near the shore, found about 800 enterococci bacteria per 100 milliliters of water. The legal limit is 61 enterococci.

The latest tests, two weeks ago, revealed about 500 enterococci per 100 milliliters, Swann said.

Enterococci are the bacteria found in human and animal intestines. Swann said the bacteria flourish in the hot, moist summer.

Betty Buckman, president of Lake Padgett Civic Association, urged neighbors not to overreact to the swimming ban.

"That always happens when it gets hot every summer," Buckman said.

The health department plans to retest East Lake again next week.