County gears up for a summer of
By Deb Fitzgerald
Green Bay News Chronicle
With the advent of spring and warm weather comes another
season of testing Door County waters to make sure they're
From May 17 to Aug. 27, Door County's 28 beaches will
be prodded and poked while teams collect data, monitor
conditions and conduct tests.
The Door County Health Department will monitor the beaches
for E.coli as an indicator of water quality. The Door
County Soil and Water Conservation Department (SWCD) -
working in conjunction with the Health Department and
University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh - will continue to search
for the sources of E. coli contamination and other pathogens
and viruses in the waters.
While some testing will be done at all 28 beaches, certain
beaches will receive more extensive study based on swimmer
population, last year's E.coli levels, physical characteristics
and proximity to potential pollution sources.
The SWCD will try to learn what's polluting Door County's
waters using several different methods, such as identifying
the species E.coli came from.
"E. coli have different DNA sequences depending
on the type of environment they grow in, whether it's
human, dog, cattle, raccoon, or gulls, for example,"
said Vinni Chomeau, Door County conservationist. "E.coli
is so genetically diverse that a cow or raccoon in Door
County has a different genetic code then one in Milwaukee
or anywhere else, so a genetic database for Door County
E.coli will also be created."
Other source identification methods will include: - An
avian waste survey. Since bird waste has been linked to
high E.coli counts in other areas of the Great Lakes,
bird droppings will be surveyed once a week at 11 different
beaches and daily at Whitefish Dunes State Park, as a
way of quantifying the bird population.
- Samples will be taken after "rain events"
(defined as a half-inch of rain within 24 hours) at a
minimum of eight beaches. Rain washes off the landscape
and becomes a transport system for pollution. Weather
events are different across the county, so the automatic
rain gauges will be placed within five miles of selected
beaches. The gauge automatically calls the samplers as
soon as it reaches half an inch of rain.
"This is one of the most important things we're
doing," Chomeau said. - A study of physical characteristics.
Determining the physical characteristics of each beach
will help determine the potential for E. coli to be transported
to and persist at a beach site. The study will include
identifying the substrate, the types of land cover on
the shoreline, predominant wind and current directions
and stormwater runoff and its proximity to the beach.
"The way those beaches react to pollution is very
different," Chomeau said. What makes Door County
such a challenge, Chomeau said, is the existence of so
many different beaches with so many different factors
and physical characteristics. The differences also could
mean different sources of pollution at different beaches,
and each will require a different action plan.
Not that an action plan is on the horizon yet. The more
information that's collected, the more reliable the data
will become, and the more precise a plan can be devised.
This summer will be spent creating the database and compiling
statistics, which can then be used for up to 10 years.
It is not known when the data will lead to sources of
water pollution, or what type of long-range plan will
be necessary to prevent those sources from occurring.
"We'll cross that bridge when we get to it,"
The 2004 beach monitoring and testing will be funded
by a $32,800 grant from the Wisconsin Coastal Management
Program andin-kind matches and donations totaling $49,200
from the town and city of Sturgeon Bay, town of Sevastopol,
Door County Jaycees, Door County Chamber of Commerce,
Door Property Owners Association, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh,
Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association, the
Door County Health Department and the Door County Soil
and Water Conservation Department.
The SWCD and Door County Board of Supervisors also accepted
a $6,000 grant from the Wisconsin Land and Conservation
Association to pay for an intern to conduct the avian
waste survey during the summer of 2004.
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A public presentation and informational meeting about
the beach monitoring and source identification efforts
will be held at 7 p.m May 6 at Crossroads at Big Creek.
The program will be convened by the county Soil and Water
Conservation Department and the Health Department.
Any person or group interested in assisting with beach
monitoring, can volunteer for the Adopt-a-Beach program.
For details, call Vinni Chomeau at the Door County Soil
and Water Conservation Department, 920-746-2214. A training
session for Adopt-a-Beach will be held May 22.