E. coli levels close eight Lake Michigan beaches to swimming.
Northwest Indiana Times staff report
July 1, 2002
Weekend swimming plans were sunk Friday
when the highest E. coli readings of the year caused the
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore to close eight of its
11 Lake Michigan beaches to swimming.
At two of the beaches, State Park East
and Mount Baldy, readings were nearly nine times the level
at which swimming is deemed unsafe.
Cheryl Guster, National Lakeshore Biological
Science Technician, said the levels were highest at those
beaches because both have ditches with high E. coli levels
leading to them. Kintzele Ditch, with levels of 4,533
colonies per 100 milliliters, is just west of Mount Baldy.
Dunes Creek, which leads to State Park East, registered
levels of 4,833.
Guster said there is more E. coli growth
in warm weather, and sudden rainfall can turn up E. coli
that had settled in water. The exact cause of the high
E.coli numbers could include wildlife feces or leaking
septic systems near water, but the exact cause hasn't
been pinpointed, she said.
Heavy rainstorms hit the area on Tuesday
and more rain fell Wednesday in advance of the sampling
done on Thursday. It takes 24 hours to obtain results
from the samples. The National Lakeshore took additional
water samples at the closed beaches on Friday. If bacteria
readings drop to safe levels, those beaches will be reopened
to swimming today.
Before Friday, testing had been relatively
uneventful this summer. On June 14, three beaches were
closed to swimming, but levels had been safe every other
In 2000, beaches monitored by the National
Lakeshore were closed 23 times. Last year they were closed
E. coli is a bacteria found in the
intestines of warm-blooded animals. Most are harmless,
but certain strains can be deadly when mixed with the
types found in the intestines.
Earlier this year, Guster offered some
general guidelines beach visitors can follow if they are
concerned about contamination on nontesting days.
"If the ditches are flowing and it
is warm enough, the beaches will fail," she said, adding
she advises swimmers to stay away from the water plumes
coming from the ditches into the lake.