DEP continues to test river water samples

From staff reports

LOCK HAVEN — State environmental regulators continue to test water quality in the West Branch of the Susquehanna River here to try to determine what caused high levels of bacteria at the city’s public swimming beach in mid June.

The beach at the foot of Vesper Street was closed after two water samples showed high levels of bacteria, including the possible presence of fecal coliform.

On July 2, the Department of Environmental Protection began taking samples of water at five locations on the river, and will continue taking samples over a 30-day period.

Four of the test sites are above the swimming beach; one is below.

Asked if any results will be released before the 30 days are completed, Megan Lehman, environmental community relations specialist at DEP’s regional office in Williamsport, issued the following statement to The Express:

“DEP’s testing protocol requires multiple samples to be taken at five locations in the Susquehanna River over a 30-day period and analyzed in the DEP Laboratory in Harrisburg. Information about the sampling results will be released when DEP has performed sufficient analysis and has any significant results to report. DEP monitoring is being performed at the request of the City of Lock Haven and is intended to supplement, not substitute, testing done by the City of Lock Haven following all applicable Pennsylvania Department of Health protocols for recreational beaches.”

The city said it has suspended testing the water, and the beach will be closed for the summer because the lifeguards it hired to monitor the beach have all found other jobs.

That’s no solace to boaters and swimmers here, though people did enjoy the water over the recent holiday.

The state Department of Health, which regulates the beach, issued this statement: “It is likely, since the (Lock Haven swim) beach has been closed for a period of time, that exposure (to the bacteria) was limited and anyone who would have been sickened would already have experienced health effects.”

The city, via the police department’s Facebook page, offered this statement, posted June 26: “Additional information regarding the city beach: swimming specifically at the city beach is prohibited until the water is deemed safe. Swimming at any other location (private or township-owned river lots) along the West Branch is permitted but we caution those wishing to do so, as the bacteria levels are very high.”

Last week, the river — due to some heavy rains on and around the July 4 holiday — rose to about 10.6 feet, cresting Friday night.

Barring any heavy downpours last night, rainfall should be scant in Central Pennsylvania through Friday.

The National Weather Service at State College forecast mostly sunny skies today, Thursday and Friday … save for Friday evening.

Highs should be in the low to mid 80s, with lows between 58 and 65 during the period.

Friday night should bring clouds, with a chance of showers and thunderstorms Saturday afternoon.

Showers or thunderstorms may come Saturday night, and partly sunny skies are forecast for Sunday.