One of the major problems in the lake are the periodically high concentrations of bacteria, including two taxa used as indicators of fecal contamination (E. coli and Enterococcus). Obviously, a high concentration of these bacteria presents a health risk, and is the major reason why Furman Lake has been closed to recreation. Since the creation of the Lake Restoration Task Force, faculty and students have been sampling and quantifying the levels of bacteria for research projects and laboratory activities.
When the sampling began, the levels of E. coli bacteria occasionally spiked at levels more than 50-times higher than the upper limit set by the Environmental Protection Agency as safe for "recreational waters". For the last few years, however, perhaps because of the reduction in the waterfowl populations and the presence of a vegetational buffer zone that reduces runoff, levels have spiked at only 30% above EPA levels.
Bacterial populations fluctuate dramatically and can respond to favorable conditions very quickly. They are often in high concentration in the sediment, and only become suspended in the water column at high concentrations after storm events when the lake is mixed. So, there are no plans to open the lake to recreation soon - we need to be sure that the bacterial concentrations will remain low, even under conditions that are favorable to their growth.
Two groups of Ecology students examined the abundance of bacteria in the lake in spring 2010. One group focused on the abundance of fecal indicator bacteria, and the other group focused on the concentrations of anti-biotic resistant bacteria in the lake. Antibiotics that we use in our households and feed to animals gets into our enviuronment, where it can act as a selective pressure for environmental bacteria. These bacteria, exposed to these antibiotics, evolve resistance. Links to these reprots appear, below:
Fecal Indicator Bacteria Concentrations in Furman Lake and its Feeder Streams
Philip Hearn, TJ Melton, Emily Tripp, and Victoria Grimm-Oropesa
Differences in Antibiotic Resistance in Fresh-water Bacteria from Furman Lake and Feeder Streams
Dylan Richards, Clarissa Graham, Laura Snyder