Camp Ockanickon closes lake as precaution after campers fall ill

camp ockanickon

Earlier this month, the YMCA’s Camp Ockanickon in Medford experienced a scare with the lake that it uses for campers to swim in.

The Camp Ockanickon Facebook page issued a statement on Aug. 5 that members of the camp community had been experiencing flu-like symptoms, and that they have been in continual contact with the Burlington County Department of Health and would be closing the lake as a precaution.

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This lake is used by three of the YMCA camps in the area: Camp Ockanickon, Camp Matollionequay and Lake Stockwell.

“On Monday, Aug. 3, we had several people call and say that they were experiencing vomiting after swimming in our lake on Saturday, Aug. 1. Even though there was a stomach bug going around town, we closed the lake and contacted the health department as a precaution,” CEO of the camp Mark Dibble said.

A common concern when it comes to lake contamination this time of year is a disease called Fecal coliform.

Fecal coliform bacteria are the most common microbiological contaminants of natural waters.

It lives in the digestive tracks of warm-blooded animals, including birds, and is excreted in the feces.

Although most of these bacteria are not harmful and are part of the normal digestive system, some are pathogenic to humans. Those that are pathogenic can cause disease such as gastroenteritis, ear infections, typhoid, dysentery, hepatitis A and cholera when campers accidentally swallow the water.

However the camp has been on top of the testing of the water since well before this incident. It had already been testing the water weekly and can confirm that the sickness that was going around had nothing to do with the water that the campers were in.

“We test every week for coliform bacteria. A risky level is 200 ppm. The test that we did after we closed the lake came back at 10 ppm. This was obviously a great result, and we reopened the lake. We have them tested every week, and we’ve never had a bad result this summer,” Dibble said.

In total, there were fewer than 25 kids who ended up getting sick out of more than 900 total campers.

The lake was only closed for a 48-hour period, and the effect it left on the camp was minimal other than generating a five-figure bill for a company to come in and disinfect over the weekend.

However Dibble indicated that the customers’ piece of mind was well worth the money.

The lake was officially reopened two weeks ago, and things have been going swimmingly since then.

Last summer the camp had a similar scare when a number of children fell ill from stomach bugs.

“This year the number of people who fell ill was significantly fewer,” Dibble said. “We probably overreacted by closing the lake but we felt an abundance of precaution was warranted. “

The camp is appreciative of how well the community handled the minor setback.

“People have handled it very well. Our customers have all been very supportive. It’s not unusual for the lakes in Medford to close when the bacteria tests come back high, so for our local customers this was par for the course,” Dibble said.

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