It’s official: City’s public swim beach closed for season

LOCK HAVEN — The city’s public swimming beach will be closed for the season, City Manager Greg Wilson confirmed at last night’s council meeting.

The beach along the West Branch of the Susquehanna River at the foot of Vesper Street was closed in mid-June after a weekly test of water samples came back with higher-than-acceptable levels of bacteria in the form of fecal coliform.

Councilman Doug Byerly asked for more information about the five sites where the state Department of Enviromental Protection (DEP) began taking water samples on Monday.

According to the DEP, staff is taking samples of the river at sites near Farrandsville Road, near Water Valley Road, along Route 664, at the city beach and near Hanna Park.

The testing will take place over the next month.

DEP has not said when the first test results will come in and be made public.

Wilson said the city is not involved in the testing and the city itself has stopped collecting water samples for testing while DEP conducts its own.

“The city itself has ceased testing because DEP is taking over,” he said, adding, “We will not be opening the city beach this year.”

By the time DEP completes its testing, the beach would be near ready to close anyway, he said.

Furthermore, Wilson said most of the lifeguards the city hired for the summer have sought other employment due to the beach’s closure.

Councilman Steve Stevenson commented on the lack of caution by the public.

“We do have a lot of people clamoring to jump in the water,” he said.

He noted that it’s even worse due to the heat wave that has hit the area.

Stevenson also questioned if the high level of bacteria, specifically e. coli, in the water were so dangerous should the public stay away from the water all together?

According to Wilson, bacteria always existed in the water.

However, the state regulates the level that is most acceptable for the public to swim in, especially at public swimming areas such as the city beach.

If the number measured in a water sample is 125 or below, then it is safe, he said.

If tests show any higher number than that, the beach must be closed due to possible harm to the public.

The most recent tests the city had conducted in June were above 125, Wilson said.

Because of that, the beach was closed and the DEP was called to help discover the source of bacteria.

“They are the protectors of the public,” he said.

Stevenson expressed disappointment over the high bacteria level in the river from the samples considering how busy the summer season is on the river for boaters and swimmers.

“We’ll have to hope for the best,” he said.

A discussion on the possible sources of the high levels was brought up by Councilman Joel Long.

Wilson said it’s possible the DEP may not pinpoint the exact location of the source of bacteria.

The agency, however, will be able to narrow down the possible areas the high levels may be coming from.

Attending last night’s meeting, besides Byerly, Long and Stevenson were Richard Conklin, Sara Stringfellow and Richard Morris. Absent was Mayor Bill Baney III.