KLAS Lake Study Research Findings Reported

Local water resources influence human health. Kosciusko Lakes and Streams (KLAS) at Grace College, with funding from the K21 Health Foundation, private donors, and Grace College, conducted a two-year research study on two current lake-related human health threats to local residents.

Dr. Nate Bosch is the lead researcher on the study and also the Director of KLAS.  According to Bosch, “This study is a great opportunity for Grace College to conduct research and educate the public about important lake-related concerns in our county.”

E. coli is a bacterium that has been monitored in seven lakes with public swimming beaches by the Kosciusko County Health Department (KCHD) since 1995 due to its role in several human diseases.

KLAS analyzed historical data collected by KCHD and found that the Pike and Center Lake swimming areas were shown to have unsafe E. coli levels in 41% and 32% of samples collected, respectively. This confirms the importance of the KCHD sampling efforts to protect human health by warning the public when E. coli levels are unsafe at local beaches.

Microcystin has been given more recent notoriety as a toxin produced by several types of blue-green algae which can cause skin irritation and even lead to liver damage when swallowed.

Monthly microcystin sampling by KLAS in 2010 and 2011 showed that only four of the 44 lakes sampled did not have detectable levels of microcystin during the study. Of the 40 lakes that had measurable microcystin levels during the study, there were 14 lakes that had elevated microcystin levels at some point in the two-year study.

KLAS found some promising results with predicting microcystin levels and potentially reducing these levels in the future, but these relationships were inconsistent among some lakes and will require further study.

Both E. coli and microcystin levels were highest during summer months which coincide with increased recreational use of the lakes, allowing for elevated exposure threats.

New public notification systems were implemented for both E. coli and microcystin as part of this study to help alert residents and tourists in Kosciusko County. KLAS will continue to encourage monitoring and public notification systems as well as continue to study blue-green algae in an effort to improve health safety related to E. coli and microcystin in the future.

The President and CEO of the K21 Health Foundation, Rich Haddad, stated that “We are excited to invest in the future health of residents in Kosciusko County by funding part of this research study.”

KLAS is a center for water research, education and collaboration at Grace College. To access a technical report of this study which includes information about notification systems, go to www.water.grace.edu.

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