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
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.