For the past ten years, the Western U.P. Health Department has monitored 18 public beaches in Houghton, Keweenaw, Baraga, Ontonagon, and Gogebic counties for excessive numbers of E. Coli.
Now, state funding cuts prevent the WUPHD from doing so any longer.
Environmental Health Director, Lynne Madison, said the WUPHD??s two technicians did more than just take water samples from beaches every week, and the public will have to be more proactive.
??It??s unfortunate because our technicians, besides testing the water, also made observations of other safety issues on the beach, and it was our once a week check to make sure our public bathing beaches were safe,?? she said.
E. Coli is an organism commonly found in the intestines of warm-blooded animals, according to Madison. When a person is exposed to it in high amounts, they can become ill, sometimes severely, exhibiting symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration.
Madison said problems at beaches most often occur after heavy rain due to runoff.
??We??re very fortunate. Our Western U.P. beaches are extremely safe to swim in, they have wonderful water quality,?? expressed Madison. ??I would say, though, that the one time when the water quality would be questionable would be after a heavy rainstorm. Contaminants on the beach, feces from birds, gulls, geese, our pets, our dogs, and runoff from sewers, septic systems can concentrate after a heavy rainstorm.??
Madison said there are some things that can be done to prevent an infection:
-wait at least 24 hours after rainfall to go swimming
-keep pets off the beach
-take bathroom breaks in public restrooms
-don??t swallow lake water
-shower after swimming
-wash your hands before eating
She said if anyone exhibits any symptoms of infection, it??s best to see a physician.
Though the WUPHD is unable to provide this service to the public this year, Madison said by being smart and observant, people can be sure to stay healthy this summer.
??If you see something, the water is very turbid, darkly colored, it just seems an unusual odor, choose not to swim that day or in that location,?? she added.