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Great Lakes Article:

E. coli closes beach for swimming
Health officials look for source, at Bethany Beach, say others in good shape.
By Kate Sheridan
South Bend Tribune
Published August 25, 2005

SAWYER -- Two environmental health authorities and a testing laboratory are looking for answers to the mysterious E. coli contamination that has forced the closure of Bethany Beach in Chikaming Township.

"There have been major problems with E. coli bacteria during the past two-and-a-half weeks" in the vicinity of Bethany Beach, said Laird Willard, of Berrien County Health Department's Three Oaks office.

Bethany Beach is one of Chikaming's earliest private lakefront cottage settlements, located in the north end of the township near Shorewood Hills.

The illness-causing E. coli bacteria is usually the product of undiluted human or animal waste discharged untreated into a stream or other body of water. Willard said the bacteria was discovered at a rate of 600 parts per million for a 100 milliliter water sample tested by authorities. Those levels are more than four times greater than the 130 ppm allowed by Environmental Protection Agency standards for body contact. That sampling forced the private beach to be closed to swimming, he said.

On Tuesday, Willard said his agency has not yet tracked down the cause or the source of the excessive pollutants, and expected sampling and water-testing to continue for at least three more weeks in the vicinity of Red Arrow Highway and West Lake Road.

Great Lakes Labs of Stevensville is conducting the tests and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is monitoring the situation, he said.

Other beaches and sampled sites along the Lake Michigan waterfront have been "nearly perfect" all summer, Willard said, thanks largely to a dry summer that has restricted water flows.

"Our counts have been good all summer, with no problems," he said of the other sampled beaches. "In fact, this has been our best year ever."

Gaye Blind of the Galien River Conservation District said she was investigating a separate discharge report in the township when some residents of Bethany Beach approached her and suggested "someone had dumped a dead pig in the stream."

Last week, Chikaming Township Clerk Jeanne Dudeck said she had been informed that hog manure had somehow been washed out of a truck and inadvertently discharged into a drain.

Willard said the Health Department has found no evidence of illicit dumping or discharge in that area. "We found one small pipe and some suds, but nothing else yet that would tell us what caused this," he said.

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