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E. coli bacteria found in well water at Cowans Gap

Spokeswoman says it is not from the same strain that has sickened 14 park visitors

August 18, 2011|By JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com
  • A lake at Cowans Gap State Park is shown in this recent file photo. E. coli bacteria has been found in a well water sample from Cowans Gap State Park, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection confirmed Thursday.
Herald-Mail file photo

McCONNELLSBURG, Pa. — E. coli bacteria has been found in a well water sample from Cowans Gap State Park, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection confirmed Thursday.

But departmental spokeswoman Lisa Kasianowitz said it is not bacteria from the same strain that has sickened 14 park visitors since mid-July.

The agency issued a boil-water advisory late Wednesday for campers and other visitors to the park, Kasianowitz said in an email. Testing found E. coli in one of two wells at the park, she said.

Fourteen cases of E. coli O157 have been confirmed in people, mostly children, who visited the park starting in mid-July.

On Thursday, the Pennsylvania Department of Health increased the outbreak's number of confirmed cases from 13 to 14, saying an additional Maryland resident also had contracted an infection.

"The E. coli that they tested in this well sample is not the same as 0157," Kasianowitz wrote in an email.

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources closed Cowans Gap's lake to all activities effective Aug. 9 after reports of swimmers hospitalized with E. coli O157 and a related condition, Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome.

Water from the lake and wells continues to be tested, according to officials with three state agencies.

Routine lake testing July 17 yielded one sample with E. coli bacteria outside the acceptable limits for the first time this year. The beach was closed for a day, and a subsequent test indicated only a trace amount of bacteria.

Kasianowitz clarified Thursday that routine lake testing would not show E. coli O157.

"The regular water samples DCNR takes in the lake does not pick up 0157. We have to do special testing right now which would reveal 0157," Kasianowitz said.

State conservation and natural resources spokesman Terry Brady said last week the state borrowed equipment from the federal Centers for Disease Control for specialized testing of the lake.

Dye-testing in the sewage systems did not reveal leaks, Brady said.

Kasianowitz said the park's two wells serve its drinking fountains and washing stations.

State officials "do not think the discovery in the well is directly linked to the human cases of (E. coli) 0157," Kasianowitz wrote.

For further information, see www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/parks/cowansgap.aspx.

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