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Cowans Gap to open for business in 2012

December 29, 2011|By JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com

FORT LOUDON, Pa. — A Pennsylvania lake closed to swimming amid a summertime E. coli outbreak will be open for all activities in 2012, according to a Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources spokesman.

Routine E. coli testing at Cowans Gap State Park has resumed, after a period of intensified testing for the source of bacteria that the Pennsylvania Department of Health said sickened at least 18 people.

"There will be no (additional) dredging or removing (samples) from sand," said Terry Brady, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Although the source of E. coli O157 at the 1,085-acre Fulton County park wasn't found, state officials believe it originated from human feces. They plan to use signs and handouts to emphasize proper hygiene when bathing and swimming.

"There will be an intense effort, especially at that park, to remind bathers and swimmers of sanitary care of your children," Brady said.

The Department of Health confirmed four cases of E. coli O157 among Maryland residents and nine cases among Pennsylvania residents, department spokeswoman Christine Cronkright said. Another five Pennsylvania residents had probable cases, she said.

An engineering study done in conjunction with testing found DCNR needed to upgrade one of two below-grade wells at Cowans Gap State Park, Brady said. The well is receiving a new pump and above-ground well cap, he said.

DCNR closed the 42-acre lake to all water activities Aug. 9 and reopened it to fishing and boating a couple weeks later. It remained closed to swimming as the temperatures cooled.

Brady said Memorial Day is typically the unofficial start of swimming at the lake, which does not have lifeguards. DNCR estimates the 1,085-park receives 465,000 visits on an average year.

"It's a natural lake, and it's a boon to that area," Brady said.

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