No E. Coli beach monitoring this year

HOUGHTON?- A long-time service of Western U.P. Health Department will not take place this year. For 10 years the health department has monitored E. Coli levels at public beaches throughout the western 5 counties, posting warnings when conditions are warranted. This year funding was cut for the program, making its continuation impossible.

Since 2004, the health department has received annual grants from Michigan Department of Environmental Quality which paid for the staff and laboratory necessary to do the work, said G. St. Germain, Health Officer/Executive Officer. However, the State’s 2014 budget shifted most of the funds to a single water project downstate, eliminating funds for many other beach programs in the state.

According to the health department, beaches in the area are generally safe for swimming, but through monitoring the health department knows that water quality is greatly affected by runoff following heavy rainfall.

All natural bodies of water contain microorganisms regardless of how clean or clear the waters look, but after heavy rainfall, microorganisms that can cause illness can be found in high numbers. Microorganisms such as E. Coli are common in bird and animal feces which may accumulate on beaches. Heavy rain can flush contaminants from the beach into the lake water, and overflow may contribute to sewer discharges which could temporarily affect water. To prevent recreational water illnesses, Western U.P. Health Department advises community members to:

Avoid swimming immediately after heavy rainfall or if the water smells or looks foul

Shower when you return home

Wash your hands with soap and water before eating

Do not swallow lake water

Use the restroom before swimming

Keep pets off the beach and do not feed birds on the beach, to minimize animal waste problems.

Western U.P. Health Department provides public health services to residents in Houghton, Keweenaw, Baraga, Ontonagon, and Gogebic counties from its offices in Hancock, L’Anse, Ontonagon and Bessemer.