Lake at Cowans Gap State Park tested twice a week, after residents raised health concerns

Pennsylvania

Concerned residents raised a question of how safe the water is at Cowans Gap State Park in Pennsylvania. 

Teah Juarez drove from San Diego to Fort Loudon. “If I didn’t think it was safe, I wouldn’t have my daughter in there. She’s having a field day in there and loves it,” she said. 

According to Park Manager Kenneth Gwin, the lake is tested twice a week for bacteria counts, specifically for E. coli. 

“When the bacteria counts are high, we close the lake and retest it. It’s a naturally occurring cycle within fresh water bodies. It happens to every fresh water body in the state. Because this one is tested, we know when this one goes high,” said Gwin.  

This year the swimming area of the lake was closed for less than 24 hours due to a high level of bacteria found in the water. 

“The naturally occurring bacteria in the soils when you have heavy rains those bacteria are concentrated in the stream, which come down into the lake usually within 24 hours,” said Gwin. “It settles out and the counts are low again.” 

Back in 2011, a number of people who reported being ill with the Norovirus, had been at the lake. Park officials say they never found the initial point of the Norovirus. Others have different concerns. 

“I do like the water. It’s nice to look at. I like to go in, but any where there’s any current or any sort I’m out,” said resident Tim Johnson.  

As for Belen Hernandez, spending the day with her family is a special moment.

“My parents are working, they’re taking care of us so there’s barely any time to come up here,” said Hernandez. 

Park officials say the results of the bacteria levels are not posted to the public, but people can call in to the park if they want to know more at (717) 485-3948.

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