Originally created 09/16/97

Lake Murray users seek expanded pollution tests



COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Some Lake Murray residents and users want shallow waters near shore tested for bacteria pollution, saying cove water tends to stagnate and hold disease-carrying bacteria longer.

Steve Robison, environmental chairman of the Lake Murray Association, said his group has been talking with the state Department of Health and Environmental Control about testing closer to the shoreline because so many people swim and draw water from the shallows.

DHEC cannot test every cove, water quality expert Dave Chestnut said. Its chief job is to check the overall quality of the lake, which generally is done by focusing on the reservoir's main sections.

A new testing method, pushed by federal regulators, was tried this summer and found almost no disease-carrying organisms.

"We consider Lake Murray to be one of our more clean and pristine water bodies," Chestnut said.

John Nagel, a South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. lake water researcher, said the fact that a May study by DHEC found water quality to be sound 200 feet from shore in coves should reassure residents. The findings indicate septic tank problems are confined to specific areas, he said.

Still, some residents and experts say DHEC should consider shallow testing.

"Most of our pollutants tend to come from the shoreline," said Alan Decho, a University of South Carolina professor. "The closer you are to shore, the higher your readings are. People who wade into these areas are exposed to that. They need to be aware of it."

Sarah Chasis, a water quality researcher for the Natural Resources Defense Council, agreed that state regulators should expand their testing.

"Knowing general water quality trends in a lake is important, but you want to also make sure you're sampling areas used by swimmers and getting results in a timely manner to notify people of water quality," she said.

The state does have a limited beach monitoring program at freshwater beaches, but testing is not done frequently. Many other swimming areas, including coves, are not monitored.