ORLEANS – Water samples taken near a wastewater discharge to Big Spirit Lake Wednesday show bacteria levels are at normal levels near the Orleans Beach 1400 feet away from the discharge.
“Bacteria levels are elevated close to where the discharge entered the lake but dropped off fairly quickly, within 200 feet of the outfall,” said Bryon Whiting an environmental specialist at the DNR Spencer field office.
Whiting added that DNR staff will take water samples again today and test results will be available tomorrow before noon. He suggested swimmers use caution for the next 24 hours, being careful not to ingest any water, to rinse off after swimming and to wash their hands before eating or drinking.
An Orleans resident discovered the wastewater discharge about 8 a.m. Wednesday on the southeast side of Big Spirit Lake.
The Iowa Great Lakes Sanitary District inspected the area and found that about 21,000 gallons of untreated wastewater had discharged through a storm sewer and into the lake. The district stopped the discharge within an hour.
“Two things are acting to reduce the bacteria,” Whiting said. “This was a relatively small amount of wastewater when you consider the lake is about 5,000 acres. Also, sunlight and other natural processes help break down the wastewater.”
The DNR is taking water samples Thursday for testing. DNR staff recommends residents use caution if swimming at the beach within the next 24 hours.
The DNR will continue to monitor the situation.