The beach at Lake Barkley State Resort Park, which usually opens on Memorial Day weekend, still hasn’t opened this year because the waters have tested for high levels of E. coli bacteria.

“We’ve got our fingers crossed that next week we’ll open,” Park Manager John Jordan said in a phone interview Friday. “Usually if we get rain and the current moves, it tends to take care of itself.”

E. coli bacteria live in the intestines of people and animals, according to the Mayo Clinic website. Most varieties are harmless or cause brief diarrhea, though a few varieties can damage human organs.

The bacteria has forced closings of Lake Barkley’s beach in the past — most recently in 2009, Jordan said. He doesn’t know why the bacteria builds up, but he cited the goose population as a potential factor.

According to the Great Lakes Beach Association’s website, E. coli bacteria often comes from storm sewers, poor septic systems that affect groundwater and pipes that pour sewage into the water. It can also come from wild animals.

The Trigg County Health Department tests the water every week. Last week the geometric mean of E. coli registered at 168, and this week the number dropped to 83.

Jordan said 83 is a safe range for swimming, but for now he awaits the result of next week’s test. If the number comes in low enough, the health department will likely give him permission to open the beach.

The park needed cleanup and repairs after heavy rainfall in April and early May led to flooding. During the last few weeks, workers have replaced electrical equipment, hand-dryers and plumbing fixtures, Jordan said. They also picked up debris and power-washed the beach house.

Reach Nick Tabor at 270-887-3231 or

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