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 20th consecutive year WUPHD will be monitoring selected public beaches.  “The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) is excited to continue our partnership with the WUPHD to provide the local community with beach monitoring that helps protect its residents within the L’Anse and Baraga area and allows for safe beaches, for all. It is important to KBIC to help protect the Community’s health and the health of the countless visitors that come to enjoy the beauty of this area each summer and to swim at our local beaches,” stated Justin Woodruff, 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 with 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. Beach water typically contains elevated levels of bacteria the day after a large rain event.

Beaches that are open to the public for swimming, are required to post notices at the beaches to inform the public whether or not the water has been tested for E. coli bacteria and where they can obtain those results. “Safe and clean swimming beaches are important for community health and essential for our local tourism industry. We are happy to be able to provide this resource to our community,” stated Tanya Rule, Environmental Health Director of the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department. The program is grant funded through the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy.

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 www.egle.state.mi.us/beach/:

Baraga County:          

First Sand’s Beach, Head of the Bay, L’Anse Waterfront Park, Ojibwa Campground Beach, Sandpoint Beach North, Sandpoint Beach South, Second Sand Beach, Zeba Recreation Area 

Gogebic County:        

Black River Harbor, Gogebic County Beach on Lake Gogebic, Lake Gogebic State Park, Little Girls Point, Lost Lake, 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, Prince’s Point, Twin Lakes State Park, White City Beach

Keweenaw County:   

Bete Gris, Eagle Harbor Beach, Eagle River Beach, Great Sand Bay

Ontonagon County:   

Bergland Township Beach on Lake Gogebic , Bond Falls Beach, Green Park, Misery Bay, Ontonagon County Park on Lake Gogebic, Ontonagon Lakeshore Park, Ontonagon Public Beach, Ontonagon Township Park, Porcupine Mountain State Park

The Western Upper Peninsula Health Department also tests for harmful toxins if algal blooms are observed. Additional information is available at the www.michigan.gov/habs.  Suspicious-looking algae can be reported to EGLE by calling the Environmental Assistance Center at 1-800-662-9278 or sending an e-mail to AlgaeBloom@Michigan.gov. The WUPHD then responds to these reports by testing the water for toxins.

Additional information is available at the WUPHD and KBIC websites at www.wupdhd.org/beach-monitoring/ and http://nrd.kbic-nsn.gov/environmental-natural-resources-programs. You can also search online for “Michigan BeachGuard”.  LIKE Western Upper Peninsula Health Department on Facebook to see beach closure postings.