Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) closed the swimming area at Harvey Gap State Park near Rifle on Tuesday due to public health safety concerns.
Weekly water testing found elevated concentrations of the bacteria E. coli, most likely caused by recent heavy rainfall. Rain water can carry a variety of contaminants into lake waters, including animal waste. Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment alerted Garfield County Public Health on Thursday of the water sample concern.
The lake also has low water levels, making swimming unsafe, according to CPW. A notice posted at the reservoir and on the Harvey Gap website indicates that the natural swimming area will remain closed for the rest of the season. Colorado Parks and Wildlife has not provided the Garfield County Public Health Department additional details at this time.
E. coli bacteria normally live in the intestines of people and animals. Most E. coli are harmless and are actually an important part of a healthy intestinal tract. However, some E. coli can cause illnesses, with symptoms that range from mild to severe.
E. coli is contracted by ingesting contaminated food or water. The incubation period for a person experiencing illness from E. coli is usually three to four days, but may be as short as one day or as long as 10. The symptoms often begin slowly with mild belly pain or nonbloody diarrhea that worsens over several days.
“If you have visited the park in the past week, it is a good idea to monitor yourself for symptoms, and contact your physician if you have concerns,” said Joshua Williams, Garfield County Environmental Health Manager. “Always avoid swallowing water when swimming or playing in lakes, ponds, streams, swimming pools, and backyard ‘kiddie’ pools as well.”
For additional questions about E. coli in surface water, call the Garfield County Public Health Environmental Health Division at 970-625-5200, ext. 8113.
At this date, the swim beach at Rifle Gap is still open for public use.