E.coli levels still high in Lake O' the Pines, business owners hurting

By Taylor Hemness - bio | email

EAST TEXAS (KLTV) - The tests that were taken earlier this week at the seven public swimming beaches at Lake O' the Pines came back high again for E.coli, and those beaches will remain closed.

It is the third consecutive test where the E.coli levels were above acceptable levels.

Thursday, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality tested the waters. They say although they are concerned, people who get their drinking water from the lake should not be.

"The corps is using a recreational standard, where people come in contact with water, which has no effect on the water that people drink because it goes through a treatment process," explained Leroy Biggers, with TCEQ. "So it's actually real safe to drink, once it goes through that process."

Biggers says the E.coli levels have no effect on fishing. But, businesses around the lake are starting to feel the pinch, just in time for the busiest weekend of the year.

There are customers who come into Four Corners Grocery on Lake O' the Pines almost daily, but they are not the ones that keep the business running.

"Well, I still have my locals that come in and eat, but we depend on the lake to pull our business in here, and that's where most of our money comes from," explained Sherry Sprencel.

She says her business has dropped almost 50% since the beaches were closed. She says even though the center of the lake is still open, it is the swimming areas that people come to, especially this time of year.

"This is the high season," said Sprencel. "July 4th is one of our biggest times, and evidently it's not going to be lifted by then."

She is not alone in the bad business department. Brushy Landing Restaurant is also down 20% since the beaches closed. Marley's Bull Frog Marina, which is now closing on certain days to save money, is taking cancellations on boat and cabin reservations.

"I only have a few boats that I rent, pontoon boats, but we've had some cancellations in our cabins because of the announcement of the lake being closed," said Doobie. "Our boats are being canceled, we're already into the 4th of July, people calling up and canceling their reservations and it's sad."

Friday, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said that the high bacteria levels should have no effect on fishing at the lake. Doobie agreed, and is begging people to get back on the water.

"We haven't seen dead fish floating all around the lake," he said. "We want people on it. It's gonna make the lake active. It's actually gonna help it…All I can say is please, please, enjoy the lake."

It's still not clear why the E.coli levels are so high at the beaches, but Sherry Sprencel said she thinks it has a lot to do with lake visitors dumping their sewage into the lake, and not at the dump sites.

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