REED CITY — As warm weather begins to push people to the beaches this summer, local health officials will be monitoring water quality for bacteria levels.
The Central Michigan District Health Department said it will begin conducting a bathing beach monitoring program of public beaches in its six-county district, which includes Osceola County.
The department said monitoring consists of weekly water sampling and testing for E. coli, posting results on the State’s BeachGuard website (www.deq.state.mi.us/beach), and posting advisories at beaches with elevated E. coli results.
Testing beaches during the swimming season is important to make sure the public is informed of high E. coli levels that pose a greater risk of illness, Director of Environmental Health for the Central Michigan District Health Department Steve King said in a press release.
“Beaches posted with an advisory should not be used for swimming until further testing show bacteria levels are within acceptable limits,” King said.
Beaches that are open to the public but not part of a monitoring program; including smaller beaches, campgrounds, and children’s camps have been asked by the health department to either implement a water sampling program that meets the State standards or post notices at the beaches to inform the public whether or not the water has been tested for E. coli bacteria, King said.
Surface waters contaminated with elevated levels of E. coli bacteria can result in illness symptoms including nausea, vomiting, stomachache, diarrhea, headache and fever. Other minor illnesses associated with swimming in contaminated waters include ear, eye, nose and throat infections and skin rashes. In highly polluted waters, swimmers run the risk of exposure to more serious disease-causing organisms such as Cryptosporidium, Giardia, E. coli O157, Norovirus, and Shigella.
So far this year, one beach in Michigan has been closed for elevated bacteria levels in St. Clair Shores. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality lists 16 public beaches in Osceola County and none have yet been flagged.
Public beaches which are not being monitored for E. coli are required to post a sign stating they are not being monitored.
This swimming season will be the 17th consecutive year CMDHD will be monitoring selected public beaches.
When it comes to making a personal decision as to which beaches to spend your summer days on, CMDHD officials said to keep in mind the following tips:
• Large amounts of waterfowl present (geese, ducks) could mean an increased amount of “bird droppings” which may contain high concentrations of E. coli bacteria. There may also be a higher risk of swimmers itch.
• Do not swim in public beaches if you have open sores or lesions on your body.
• Research the number of closings the beach has had in the most recent years (check www.cmdhd.org, Public Beach Monitoring for this information).
• If there has been a heavy rain event within the past 48 hours, use caution in swimming due
to possible runoff and higher levels of bacteria in the water.
• If the water is discolored with a greenish, blue, or milky appearance, this may indicate an
algae bloom. Certain algae blooms can produce toxins that could make someone ill.
• Don’t swim where the beach has an abundance of trash and litter.
• Dry off immediately with a clean towel after getting out of the water. Don’t forget to use
sunscreen and take precautions against sunburn. It’s also a good idea to take a shower after
spending a day at the beach.
• Wash your hands with soap and water before eating.
For more information on the beach monitoring program and results, log onto our website at www.cmdhd.org and click on the Public Beach Monitoring information link.