City officials: Water at Lake Jackson OKPublished 12:00am Friday, July 4, 2014
Just more than a week after high levels of E. coli were found at one spot on Lake Jackson in Florala, city officials say everything is fine with the waters.
Last week, Michael Mullen, of Choctawhatchee Riverkeeper, Inc. reported levels of E. coli were found to be 10 times higher than normal at one spot in the lake in one of three water samples taken from the body of water Sat., June 22. At that time, Mullen said he wanted to make the results public as a precaution, calling the findings a likely “one-time thing.”
“We’ve been testing there a long time and this is the first time the number has been so high,” Mullen told The Star-News in a story published last week. Mullen said that the higher-than-normal levels of bacteria could have come from an overabundance of waterfowl or something as simple as litter. Mullen said it would likely have posed a risk only to swimmers going through chemotherapy or with immune system problems.
Florala State Park manager Joe Drakkar said last week that he and Mullen had spoken, and agreed the problem was one that would work itself out.
“We’re taking it under advisory, but it’s likely cleared up by now,” Drakkar said. “We think it was an isolated incident.”
Thursday, Florala Mayor Robert Williamson said new samples had been taken from Lake Jackson, confirming the water’s safety.
“As anticipated, follow-up samples of Lake Jackson indicate Alabama’s largest natural lake is as pristine as ever and the levels of E. coli are safe,” Williamson said.
Mullen said the Choctawhatchee Riverkeeper, Inc. conducts tests on waters the State of Alabama does not as a “public service,” adding only Alabama’s coastal waters are tested on a regular basis by state agencies.
In a statement released Thursday, Williamson acknowledged what he said he perceives as the group’s “genuine desire to protect our environment,” but blasted CRI and local news agencies’ reporting of the event as “reckless” and a “akin to shouting ‘fire’ in a theater.”
“To alert the public and create fear in visitors, to the extent they stay away from the lake, on one vial of water, is reckless and a discredit to the organization,” Williamson said. “It is very possible that the sample was taken shortly after the departure of water fowl from the area, making the notification akin to someone shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theater when an individual has simply lit a cigarette.”
In previous statements to the press, Williamson also expressed concerns over the report’s possible affect on Florala’s economy, especially during the town’s annual 24th of June Masonic celebration.
Last week, Mullen said he and Drakkar would likely begin conducting training that would allow Florala State Park and city workers to test the waters themselves in the future, something Williamson called “a silver lining.”