PC Park beach closed

Tommy Barnett of the Pulaski County Road Department posts a sign last Friday afternoon stating that the beach at the park in the eastern part of the county is closed until further notice. Pulaski Judge-Executive Steve Kelley said this week the beach may not re-open for the summer. Pulaski County Park itself has not closed.

The beach at Pulaski County Park remains closed as health officials test the water there following complaints — and given how late it is in the summer, the area might not re-open this tourism season.

On Monday, Pulaski County Judge-Executive Steve Kelley participated in a conference call as expected with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Lake Cumberland District Health Department regarding concerns of a possible fungus at the beach.

Complaints were observed on social media late last week regarding the possible problem at the beach area the county created at the western Pulaski park venue. A sign was posted last Friday stating that the beach is temporarily closed. Those at the park will have to read and honor the sign, as there’s no way to completely keep people out of the water there. The park itself was not and is not being shut down.

“We’re closing the beach temporarily until we can get the testing done,” said Kelley on Thursday of this week. “We’re going to have to contract with an independent lab to test our beach. ... Right now, we’re reaching out, trying to negotiate with a lab to do the testing.”

He added that much of the conversation between the three entities dealt with the fact that “it’s a lake, there’s inherent risk any time you swim in an untreated body of water, be it the ocean or a creek or the lake or whatever. There should be enough flow in Lake Cumberland when there’s enough rain to where it’s not stagnant, but there was a period of drought for about a month, we didn’t get any rain, so they didn’t open up the gates (at Wolf Creek Dam) very often, so it may be something related to that. But we’re just trying to be safe.”

When asked how much longer he expects the beach to be closed, Kelley said it will likely take at least a month to get the initial testing done and get approval to open back up.

“At this point, we may just let it (stay closed) for the rest of the year,” he said. “We’ve only got another month left anyway before school starts back. We haven’t made a decision, but it is possible it won’t re-open this season.”

One factor that’s changed is that the county will now have to file to get its beach permitted. Kelley said that the state Department for Public Health would prefer that they were, but the beach was approved through the Corps of Engineers nonetheless.

“It’s kind of a strange situation there,” said Kelley. “I guess in order to be a permitted beach, you’ve got to go through the hoops of the health department, and they never required that until now. ... Now that there’s been a complaint made, they’re wanting us to be permitted.

“There are several steps that we have to go through in order to be a permitted beach through the health department,” said Kelley. “... There’s a series of steps that we’re going to have to continue testing on a regular basis in order to be a permitted beach.”

Stuart Spillman, Environmental Director with the Lake Cumberland District Health Department, affirmed that the beach now needs an actual permit through his agency, but it’s not a situation were the county is in trouble for not previously having had one.

“Both the Corps and the health department are going to say there’s got to be some bacteriological testing done of the water, but most of the permitting process is going to be in line (with rules such as) there has to be buoys out there delineating when the water gets deep, things like that that really, they were kind of already doing.

“It’s not like they have to make this gigantic leap to get it permitted,” he added. “The one thing I have to do is, I have to get a survey done by someone (out of Frankfort who inspects pools and beaches). ... We’re just looking to work with the county to get everything up to par as far as what’s needed out there.”

Unfortunately, getting that done could be complicated by the situation ongoing in eastern Kentucky, where massive flooding there has drawn the lion’s share of state resources at this time, noted Spillman.

“Generally, it doesn’t take that long, especially on something like this, where this beach is basically already meeting all the requirements that it’s going to need,” said Spillman. “But we’re in a slowdown because of that disaster (in eastern Kentucky), getting the people who can do that survey out here.”

Spillman said the water is required to be tested once every 30 days, or after a heavy rain. The weekend that the illness was reported, “the heavy rain was really after that,” said Spillman.

Spillman said last week the nature of the complaint of which he was aware was that someone had gotten a rash at the beach.

Since the Commonwealth Journal’s story was first published last Friday, Spillman said there have been additional complaints made.

“What I’m hearing of different illnesses, you can’t necessarily attribute to” conditions at the beach, he noted, mentioning that he’s heard of everything from skin irritation to ear aches. “Not all of that is going to be because (someone) visited the beach at Pulaski County Park.”

He added, “The whole crux of this is, the beach area (is what) will be tested. The beach and what’s in that. Whatever’s outside of that, the health department has no requirement and the county’s under no obligation to test the lake. When (you) get in that area beyond those barriers that are at the beach, you’re taking a calculated risk.”

Regardless of whether or not there is a problem at the beach, Kelley wanted to express sympathy toward anyone who might have been affected, including the original individual to make the complaint about an effect on their child.

“I hated to have this,” said Kelley. “If something really did occur to this lady’s child, I hope the child’s all right. But we’re doing all we can, trying to follow all the guidelines that are put forward to us to make sure it’s safe.”

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