LOCKPORT – This summer’s unusual closures of the beach at a state park in Wilson may stem from stepped-up water testing, a Niagara County Health Department official speculated this week.
But a spokesman for the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation said Friday he’s “not sure that is true.”
Environmental Health Director James J. Devald told the county Board of Health on Thursday that the state is testing water at and near Wilson-Tuscarora State Park more often and in more locations than in previous years.
Closings of the Wilson-Tuscarora beach on Lake Ontario, a rarity in the past, have occurred three times this season, most recently Tuesday.
Krull Park Beach in Olcott, owned by the county and operated by the Town of Newfane, has become well known for frequent closures in recent years, including three shutdowns this season.
The culprit in all cases was elevated E. coli bacteria levels in the water, Devald said.
He said that in Wilson, testing is being done not only at the state park beach but at a dock in Twelve Mile Creek along the park’s western edge, at Roosevelt Beach west of the park and at Sunset Island east of the park.
Randy Simons, public information officer for State Parks in Albany, said the agency received a Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2010 that paid for more water testing at numerous state-owned beaches.
“Wilson-Tuscarora is one of the beaches being studied this summer. It is being sampled four days a week, and a report will be written and provided to EPA in the spring,” Simons said in an email to The Buffalo News. He said testing at the other areas around the park is occurring only once a week, as well as after rains or high water.
For two years, the county has been testing DNA in the water around Krull Park, which is just east of the mouth of Eighteenmile Creek in Olcott. That creek is subject to a federal Environmental Protection Agency remediation plan.
The goal was to find the source of the E. coli there. At first, it was speculated that agricultural runoff from farms along the creek might be to blame.
Suspicion then settled on heavy deposits of seagull droppings on piers. But the last round of DNA tests last year concluded the source was not birds but ruminants, animals such as cows and deer.