Laurel Lake in Erving open to swimmers again after week of high bacteria levels

By JULIAN MENDOZA

Staff Writer

Published: 07-08-2022 3:42 PM

ERVING — Those seeking relief from the summer heat may once again take a dip in Laurel Lake now that bacteria levels are down, according to state communications cited by Eastern Franklin County Health District Officer Claudia Sarti.

Sarti said she received a state report on Wednesday that the lake — which had been closed for about a week due to high bacteria levels — is now open for swimming again. The lake, nestled within Erving State Forest, is a popular recreation destination maintained by the Department of Conservation and Recreation. The Bureau of Environmental Health, which oversees testing of the water’s quality, did not respond to requests for comment.

“What I’ve been told at this point,” Sarti reported, “is that the beach is unposted and that the beach is safe for swimming.”

Sarti interpreted from lab reports that water samples were collected on June 30 before analysis commenced the next day. Results showing such high bacteria levels, she said, can stem from particular weather conditions.

“It’s not unusual for high bacterial counts to occur, particularly in high drought conditions,” Sarti said.

Sarti explained that soil often contains the bacteria that seeps into the water. Deluges of rain, she said, can cause heavy runoff that cascades soil into Laurel Lake.

While Sarti could not recall recent incidents in which high bacteria levels in local bodies of water caused major health issues, she recounted seeing exposure result in severe skin reactions “years ago in other areas.” Other risks are associated with accidental ingestion of certain bacteria, she added. This includes enterococci, defined by the Environmental Protection Agency as “indicators of the presence of fecal material in water and, therefore, of the possible presence of disease-causing bacteria, viruses and protozoa.”

“It’s usually because the count of enterococci in the water levels are high and some people can have extreme reactions to high levels of bacteria like that,” Sarti said of the swimming area closures. “I can imagine that’s not a whole lot of fun.”

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Laurel Lake was listed on the Bureau of Environmental Health’s freshwater beach water quality table in 2021 for a 26-day posting due to findings of enterococci. Laurel Lake was also listed on the bureau’s Freshwater Fish Consumption Advisory List the same year for high mercury levels. With this determination, fish from the lake were deemed unfit for consumption more than twice per month.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com.

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