Signage warns of E. Coli tests
NEWBERRY – The LMAS District Health Department is notifying residents of informative signs now appearing on area beaches. The department has been collecting weekly water samples to check the level of E. coli form bacteria present at popular beaches in Schoolcraft and Mackinac counties and posting messages about the health risk of using the water for swimming.
According to officials from LMAS, E. coli is one of many types of bacteria found in the intestinal tract of warm blooded animals (including humans) that can cause serious illness when ingested. E. coli is considered a common contaminant in the environment and high levels may indicate an increased risk of human illness.
The signs currently being posted are color-coded.
The “green” sign is the one most commonly seen. In this case, the water bacterial count is low and with reasonable precautions (don’t drink the lake water, be sure to wash your hands before eating and take a shower or bath soon after swimming) the risk of illness resulting from a swim is low.
“Yellow” indicates a bacterial count higher than usual – possibly due to wind/wave action stirring up the biologically active lake bottom; algae blooms; or heavy rain with run-off from storm drains and ditches. Swimming soon after such events increases the risk for illness.
When the bacterial count gets really high, a “red” sign will be present in the area, and swimmers are warned to avoid swimming in that area. The beach will be posted as closed and additional monitoring will take place. The beach will reopen only when levels of E. coli are low.
“Not all swimming areas are tested because the costs associated with beach monitoring can be quite high,” explained LMAS District Health Officer Nicholas Derusha. “When signs are not used, a good rule of thumb is to avoid conditions often associated with high bacterial counts. So avoid swimming soon after storms with high winds, rain and/or wave action and near storm water drainage.”
Beach sampling results in the LMAS Health Department jurisdiction (and other monitored beaches in Michigan) can be found at: www.deq.state.mi.us./beach/ public.