Elkhart County Health Department warns of high levels of E. coli in Yellow Creek

The Elkhart County Health Department is keeping a close eye on bacteria levels in Yellow Creek. The department will be adding more testing sites along the creek this year, because of high levels of E. coli found in several locations.

The bacteria was found in water samples collected on a weekly basis between April and September last year.

"The [maximum] body contact level is 235, and some of the levels that we're finding are 10 times, 100 times above that, so it's pretty significant," said Bill Hartsuff, Elkhart County Health Department supervisor, onsite program.

The health department says, in general, E. coli levels are higher for Yellow Creek than in other bodies of water nearby. This is most likely from pollutants getting into the creek from the land surrounding it.

"Whenever we have high levels of E. coli, it means that we're getting some type of runoff or some type of evidence that we have either of manure or something entering into the ditch," said Hartsuff.

To pinpoint what's causing the higher levels and where E. coli hotspots are, however, will take some time--as much as three years.

"We haven't gotten to that point to identify a specific place. We're going to be monitoring different reaches of the drain so we can make those determinations," said Hartsuff.

There are places where E. coli levels are lower. Although several samples tested high in areas in Goshen, the bacteria will travel with the water.

At this point, the Elkhart County Health Department is advising people not to swim in Yellow Creek and says people should wash their hands if they come into contact with water from the creek.

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