Advisory issued about bacteria risk in swimming spots

Fed by the San Gabriel River, the Blue Hole is a hot spot to cool off in Georgetown. 

Among those jumping in Wednesday were Nikki Cenkner and her family. 

"We are just trying to make the best out of every day,” said Cenkner.

As more people got in a work crew put up new advisory signs about the possibility of bacteria in the water. Last week elevated levels were detected and there were reports of people getting rashes after swimming at the Blue Hole. A second test Monday indicated the bacteria level had dropped. 

Georgetown resident Chub Meeker and his wife, who were at the park watching the swimmers, said they were aware of the report. 

"No, I wouldn't go into the water, I'd wade, I wouldn't go underwater,” Meeker said. “I'd be scared of swallowing some of it.”

The problem at the Blue Hole wasn't bad enough for officials in Georgetown to temporarily close the site down.

Water quality experts are quick to point out that practically every waterway in central Texas can have a problem. In Austin a potential hot spot is along the Barton Creek Green Belt. Bull Creek, near Loop 360, is another place where in the past high levels of bacteria have been found. Warning signs were put up several years ago. 

A contributing factor to the problem there, and in other Austin waterways, is fecal matter from dogs. 

"Anywhere there is a lot of dogs, the risks go up dramatically, not only do they carry their own bacteria load, they tend to stir up the bottom and those sediments often carry a lot of bacteria, anywhere there is a lot of dogs stay out of that area for contact recreation,” said Mateo Scoggins with Austin Watershed Protection.

Typically bacteria levels spike on hot days in stagnant water and after big rain events. 

“So, I'd say it is safe within reason,” said Scoggins.

To reduce the risk of exposure there are rules to remember: don't submerge your head, don't inhale of ingest any water, and wash down with anti-bacterial soap after getting out of the water. The extra scrubbing also goes for pets that get into the water.