Lake St. John water well within safe levels

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 27, 2001

LAKE ST. JOHN, La. – Levels of coliform bacteria in Concordia Parish’s Lake St. John are well within acceptable levels, according to officials with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.

&uot;We were testing for fecal coliform bacteria, which is an indicator of how much sewage is in the lake,&uot; Bob Paul of the DEQ’s Alexandria regional office said Tuesday.

Current law allows for 200 coliform bacteria per 100 milliliters of water, but the 15 samples of water DEQ workers took on June 13 at the popular recreational lake &uot;tested way below that,&uot; Paul said.

The sample with the highest level of coliform bacteria only had 50 of the bacteria per 100 milliliters. The average per sample was 10 per 100 milliliters, and four samples contained none of the bacteria at all, Paul said.

Randall Ducote, sanitarian regional coordinator for the Department of Health and Hospitals, had already said last month that levels of bacteria from wastewater in the lake were not high enough to be a health hazard.

In October, members of the Lake St. John Advisory Committee asked the Concordia Parish Police Jury to ask state Rep. Bryant Hammett, D-Ferriday, and state Sen. Noble Ellington, D-Winnsboro, to request that the DEQ test the lake’s water regularly.

The last time the lake’s water was sampled was in the early 1990s, when it was tested for pesticides. The agency is next scheduled to test the lake’s water in 2003.

But in a May meeting of the Concordia Police Jury, Health Officer Florence Hargis pointed out that houses that dispose of wastewater, or sewage, offsite – sometimes in bodies of water such as lakes St. John and Concordia – usually treat such sewage by simply adding air.

&uot;I couldn’t swim in those lakes knowing that’s being done,&uot; Hargis told jurors.

She asked the jury to pass ordinances requiring that houses discharging sewage offsite be equipped with chlorination devices, or that offsite dumping be banned altogether. So far, the jury has not taken action on the request.

And last month, Hammett’s office once again requested that the lake’s water be tested. Hammett was not available for comment Tuesday.