The sky is blue and the sun toasts the sand on Boonesborough Beach.

People sunbathed on the beach Sunday and some waded in the water, but no one was swimming in the river.

A “No Swimming Allowed” sign was posted by the steps leading from the beach’s former bath house to the shore.

The beach has been closed to swimming since the mid-1980s when unsafe levels of fecal coliform where found in the river there.

The state built a swimming pool at the park to accommodate park visitors.

The river swimming ban remains in place for two reasons, said Phil Gray, Boonesborough State Park manager.

A shortage of lifeguards prevents the park from hiring safety personnel, but the river’s water quality is also a factor.

The Kentucky River at Boonesborough is not alone when it comes to water unfit for swimming.

The state’s recently released biennial Clean Water Act Report to Congress said 70 percent of Kentucky’s waterways are unsafe for contact recreation such as swimming.

That is an increase of 47 percent from two years ago when the previous report was released.

Suspicion that the park’s sewage treatment plant releases untreated waste into the river are unfounded, Gray said.

The plant serves the park’s campground, swimming pool, public rest rooms and offices.

“The plant is running at capacity, but it’s absolutely in compliance” with state and federal standards, he said.

“If it weren’t in compliance, the Kentucky Division of Water would quickly close the park.”

Functioning properly or not, the aging treatment plant will have to be replaced before long, Gray said.

The best solution would be for the park to connect with the new sewage treatment plant built by the Northern Madison County Sewer District, he said.

“Madison County Judge-Executive Kent Clark and state Rep. Harry Moberly, D-Richmond, are working to make that happen,” Gray said. Clark said a sewer line from near Exit 95 of Interstate 75 to the park could be constructed for well under $2 million.

“That would be much less expensive than building a new package treatment plant for the park,” he said. “Regardless of the cost, the state wants to get away from package sewer plants.”

The new sewage treatment plant should go on-line “any day now,” Clark said.

It will replace problematic package sewer plants serving the Madison Village and Boone’s Trace subdivision and businesses at Exit 95.

Some of the plants were noted in a Kentucky River Watershed Watch report as possible sources of pollutants in Hines Creek.

“If we can run a main sewer line out Boonesborough Road (KY 627) to the park, it could also serve other subdivisions and businesses along the way,” Clark said.

Moberly said the park’s waste treatment needs to be addressed.

“With the state’s revenue situation, getting the money won’t be easy,” he said.

During its 2008 session, the General Assembly appropriated $3.4 million for Madison County water and sewer projects, but the park was not included.

“I’m confident that the legislature will provide the money two years from now,” Clark said.

Bill Robinson can be reached at brobinson@richmondregister.com or at 623-1669, Ext. 267.

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