Sub-standard water conditions that caused 45 triathletes to become ill following last month’s Boathouse International Triathlon in Oklahoma proved to be an isolated incident and should not be cause for panic, said Ironman 70.3 Kansas race director Ryan Robinson.
“That’s not a concern here,” Robinson said. “We keep a close eye on it, and obviously the lake state-park officials do, too. We’re in close communication with them and we do our own (testing) as well. It’s a clean lake.”
Wednesday, Oklahoma health officials released confirmation that the cause of the sickness was tied to the fact that the water was filled with parasites, viruses and other contaminants associated with animal and human waste. A contributing factor in the onset of illness was that the race’s 1.5-kilometer swim took place in a stretch of the Oklahoma River that was formerly a ditch that handled runoff.
Because of that, and because of the overall quality of the water at Clinton Lake, site of this weekend’s Ironman event, officials who maintain and monitor the lake said they were not concerned that a similar problem will occur in Kansas.
“We do have a water quality monitoring program, we’ve been doing it for years out here,” said Dave Rhoades, Park Manager for the Army Corps of Engineers. “Obviously, if you go out to any Kansas lake or stream and drink the water, you’re liable to get sick. But with just body contact, you’re going to be fine.”
The water at Clinton Lake is tested for fecal coliform three times a year. Rhoades said that number would increase if the numbers ever registered in the danger zone. In addition, Rhoades said the water is tested monthly during the summer for other common contaminants and that all of the readings have been well within normal ranges.
“With the results that we’ve had, I don’t think there’ll be any problem,” Rhoades said.
Sunday will mark the second year in a row that Ironman Kansas has been run in Lawrence. There were no reported incidents of illness related to water consumption at last year’s event.
“We’ve just learned that there is always a risk in triathlons, especially when you swim in open water,” Bret Sholar, race director for the Boathouse International, told the Associated Press. “We can’t have control over the river. Hopefully the athletes understand that an open water swim has an associated risk.”