Lake Erie beach water testing resumes by Monroe County Health Department

Photo credit: The Monroe County Health Department 

The Monroe County Health Department will collect water samples at Lake Erie beaches to determine if the water is safe for swimming. 

Water samples are being tested for Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria, which live in the digestive systems of humans and other warm-blooded animals. Testing will take place each Tuesday from Memorial Day through Labor Day,

Most strains of the E. coli bacteria are not dangerous, but they can indicate the presence of other disease-causing bacteria.

Sources that contribute bacteria and other pathogens to the surface water include illicit waste connections to storm sewers or roadside ditches, septic systems, combined and sanitary sewer overflows, rain runoff, wild domestic animal waste, and agriculture runoff. 

Results of the analysis are available the following afternoon and can be viewed on the Health Department’s website HERE.

The daily geometric mean calculated from these samples must be below 300 E. coli per 100 milliliters (ml) for the water to be considered safe for swimming.

Sometimes one or two of the samples may be above 300, but if the daily geometric mean is below 300, the beach is not in violation of the water quality standard.

After 30 days, a geometric mean is calculated for all the individual samples collected within that time frame. This 30-day geometric mean must be below 130 E. coli per 100 ml for the water to be considered safe for swimming. 

When would an advisory be posted? A contact advisory would be issued if it is determined that levels of bacteria exceed the limits established by the Michigan Public Health Code.

An advisory is posted if either the single-day or 30-day average bacteria count exceeds the established limit. If an advisory is posted due to bacterial contamination, the Health Department will continue to monitor the water quality at the beach and the advisory will be lifted when bacteria levels fall back within acceptable levels.

It is possible that a beach could be closed for swimming but other recreational activities at the beach may still be available. The Health Department also inspects public swimming pools every year to minimize the risk of diseases causing bacteria and other pathogens. 

"As the weather warms up, so does our Lake Erie water, attracting many swimmers to enjoy the summer weather," says Chris Westover, Environmental Health Director of the Monroe County Health Department. "We want to remind everyone to follow any whole-body contact advisories and beach closures if they occur to keep themselves and their families safe from any diseases or pathogens." 

Any resident suspecting unsafe or unsanitary public swimming pools or beaches should contact the Environmental Health Division at 734-240-7900.