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DNA test planned for Lake Ontario

LOCKPORT – DNA testing to confirm the source of bacteria that occasionally closes beaches on Lake Ontario may occur soon, the Niagara County Board of Health learned this week.

The report of the plans came as Krull Park Beach in Olcott was closed to swimming for the first time this year.

The beach was closed on Tuesday and reopened Friday, the county Health Department said.

An investigation last year, after Krull was closed eight times because of high E. coli bacteria readings in water samples, tentatively concluded that seagull droppings washing off the heavily coated piers near the beach might be to blame.

However, Town of Newfane Supervisor Timothy R. Horanburg insisted last summer that sewage discharged from the City of Lockport wastewater treatment plant into Eighteen Mile Creek was the likely cause.

However, testing at 14 locations between the plant and the lake, which showed E. coli levels dropping rapidly the farther one got from Lockport on the creek's 13-mile run to the lake, cast doubt on that theory.

DNA testing likely would settle the issue, and Environmental Health Director James J. Devald told the Board of Health on Thursday that he hopes it can occur soon.

An extra, larger water sample would have to be taken and tested quickly for DNA when there is a high E. coli score in the regular sample, Devald explained.

"We have to time that sampling with a high bacteria count," he said.

There have been high bacteria counts east of Olcott, too. Devald said Camp Kenan's beach in Somerset had an elevated bacteria count Tuesday and would have been closed, but it hasn't opened for the season yet.

That beach is restricted to use by campers at Camp Kenan, operated by the Lockport Family YMCA.

Ronald Gwozdek, county public health technician, said Friday there was an elevated bacteria count this week at Lighthouse Christian Camp in Somerset, which is simply a testing point, not a beach.

There have been no bacteria problems at sites west of Olcott,

Normal currents push the outflow from Eighteen Mile Creek to the east.

Devald said the Health Department has added a beach conditions link to its website, accessible by going to www.niagaracounty.com/health and clicking on "Beach Report."?

email:tprohaska@buffnews.com