Western UP Health Department

Leading The Community Toward Better Health

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The Western Upper Peninsula Health Department (WUPHD) and the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) are conducting a bathing beach monitoring program of public beaches. This swimming season will be the 14th consecutive year WUPHD will be monitoring selected public beaches. “KBIC is excited to continue working alongside Western UP Health Department in protecting our waters. This will be our third year monitoring the local beaches, and feel that it’s important to continue providing this service to the public,” stated Stephanie Cree, Water Resources Specialist with the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Natural Resource Department. Monitoring consists of weekly water sampling and testing for E. coli, posting results on the State’s BeachGuard website, and posting closings or 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.

Surface waters contaminated with elevated levels of E. coli bacteria can result in illness symptoms including nausea, vomiting, stomachache, diarrhea, headache and fever. Other illnesses associated with swimming in contaminated waters include ear, eye, nose and throat infections, and skin
rashes and skin infections.

“Beaches that are open to the public for swimming, but not part of a monitoring program are being 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”, stated Tanya Rule, Environmental Health Director of the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department. Public beaches which are not being monitored for E. coli are required to post a sign stating they are not being monitored.

The COVID-19 pandemic has added another concern while at the beach this summer. Stay home if you are feel ill or experiencing any of the following symptoms: cough, shortness of breath, fever, sore throat, headache, or muscle aches. Protect yourself and family by practicing social distancing; keeping at least 6 feet away from people not in your household. Wear a face covering while indoors at public spaces. Use hand sanitizer after contact with high-touch surfaces.

Summer days spent at Michigan public beaches is a fun activity that can be done safely by following a few simple rules:

  • If there has been a heavy rain event within the past 48 hours, avoid swimming due to possible runoff and likely higher levels of bacteria in the water. Avoid waters that are unusually cloudy, muddy, or warm after rain.
  • Large amounts of waterfowl present (geese, ducks) could mean an increased amount of “bird droppings” that may contain high concentrations of E. coli bacteria. There may also be a higher risk of swimmer’s itch.
  • Do not swim in public beaches if you have open sores or lesions on your body.
  • If the water is discolored with a greenish, blue, or milky appearance, this may indicate an algal bloom. Certain algal 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 to prevent swimmer’s itch. 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. Use instant hand sanitizer if running water is not available.
  • Do not ingest surface water as it is not safe for consumption.

Weekly beach inspections and water quality monitoring is being conducted by the Health Department and Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Natural Resource Department at the following Western U.P. public beaches and the test results may be viewed on the state beach website.

Baraga County Beaches:

  • The Alligator
  • First Sand’s Beach
  • Head of the Bay
  • L’Anse Waterfront Park
  • Ojibwa Campground Beach
  • Sandpoint Beach North
  • Sandpoint Beach South
  • Zeba Boat Launch

Gogebic County:

  • Gogebic County Beach on Lake Gogebic
  • Lake Gogebic State Park
  • Sunday Lake Campground and Beach

Houghton County:

  • Agate Beach
  • Calumet Waterworks Beach
  • Chassell Beach
  • Dollar Bay Beach
  • Hancock City Park Beach
  • Houghton City Beach
  • McLain State Park
  • Twin Lakes State Park

Keweenaw County:

  • Eagle Harbor Beach
  • Eagle River Beach
  • Lake Fanny Hooe Campground

Ontonagon County:

  • Bergland Township Beach on Lake Gogebic
  • Bond Falls Beach
  • Ontonagon County Park on Lake Gogebic
  • Ontonagon Township Park
  • Porcupine Mountain State Park

WUPHD has applied for a grant through the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) to upgrade our laboratory equipment for 2021. This grant opportunity would allow for rapid testing with sample results within hours of collection instead of the current 24
hour process.