Testing Water Samples

Three beaches are closed at Lake Tenkiller because of e-coli bacteria. We learned why agencies wait for two positive tests results before closing a beach. Each agency has it's own regulations on when it is unsafe for swimmers to be in the water. At Tenkiller Lake rangers draw weekly water samples from different swimming areas. Then the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sends those samples to a test lab.

Lindsey Walsh is the microbiologist who tested the water samples from Tenkiller Lake.

"E. coli they like the humidity and they like the heat and so the summer time is a good time for them to amp up their numbers," Walsh said.

The water samples from Cookson Bend, Snake Creek and Chicken Creek all ended up at the water lab at the Tulsa County Health Department.

"Well typically take about 18 hours to incubate. we are looking for coliform and E. coli which indicates some kind of fecal contamination whether its from humans or animals we don't know. we don't test it down to that level," said Elizabeth Nutt, Division Chief for Environmental Public Health.

A fluorescent light determines if the samples contain high levels of E. coli.

"If we receive a high level because we only take one or two in a particular area. then after we see a very high count, we immediately within 24 hours take another sample and then send that in just to make sure," said Ross Adkins, Chief Public Affairs Tulsa District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The entire process between the drawing the first water sample to getting the results of the second test could take about a week. But while they are waiting for test results, people maybe swimming in a contaminated area and there's a chance swimmers could get sick.

"There is that possibility however we haven't had that happen yet. Although we are very concerned about that. That's why we try to get the sample back just as quick as we can but the lab takes a little while before they can get it back to us," Adkins said.

According to Adkins, often times positive water samples turn out to be false. So that's why they feel it's best to wait for the second test results.