Recent Rain Affects Water Quality at Beaches

July 21, 2018–According to the National Weather Service, communities across the Western Upper Peninsula received between 1-5 inches of rain throughout the early morning hours of July 12th. Water samples collected from Canal/Portage Lake waterways on July 12th indicated very high levels of both E.Coli and Fecal Coliform bacteria. WUPHD is issuing a swim advisory for any areas that experienced heavy rain during the July 12th weather event.

Significant rain events result in erosion and runoff into drainage ways and rivers that discharge into recreational bodies of water. Large rain events elevate the bacteria level in lakes from sources of contamination such as manure from farm fields, waste from pets and wildlife, flooded septic systems, and/or sewer overflows.

The presence of E.coli and high levels of fecal coliform bacteria in aquatic environments indicate that the water has been contaminated with the fecal material of man or animals. The presence of high levels of fecal contamination is an indicator that a potential health risk exists for individuals exposed to this water.

Swimming in waters with high levels of fecal bacteria increases the chance of developing illness (fever, nausea, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, skin rashes, ear infections) from pathogens (bacteria, viruses, parasites) entering the body through the mouth, nose, ears, or cuts in the skin.

The public should always exercise extreme caution when swimming after a rain event. Avoid ingesting of water. Washing thoroughly with soap after contact with contaminated water can also help prevent illness.

When beaches are closed, the length of time to reopen is dependent upon the natural conditions. When condition are right (warm weather, warm surface water, continued rain events that cause runoff), bacteria survive and continue to multiply quickly. During conditions of cooler water temperature, cooler weather, and exposure to sunlight, the bacteria die in large numbers, allowing the beach to reopen.

Beaches are only being tested by the health department on a weekly basis. Note that most of the current beach sample results were from samples collected prior to the rain storm. The condition of the water has most likely deteriorated after the July 12th rain event. All beach locations should be considered a swim at your own risk.

For the most recent results of each tested location, please click July 21st Beach status.

Note that locations marked with an asterisk (*) are not routinely monitored by WUPHD. These testing locations were added in response to the June 17th flood event. Once determined to be safe, they are no longer being monitored during 2018.

Note that locations marked with two asterisks (**) are sampled by Keweenaw Bay Indian Community.