November 1, 2014

The pristine water of Saginaw Bay? Four county beaches exceed E. Coli standards

Three of four beaches have advisories lifted

By Tim Barnum|News Editor
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ARENAC COUNTY — From White’s Beach in Standish Township to the Singing Bridge Public Access in Whitney Township, Arenac County beaches on Lake Huron are failing E. Coli tests.

Mark Janeczko, Environmental Health Supervisor for the Arenac County branch of the Central Michigan District Health Department (CMDHD), says when the advisories are posted, it’s recommended that people stay out of the water at the contaminated beaches.

Tests conducted on July 23 showed that four out of nine beaches monitored in Arenac County by the Central Michigan District Health Department – including the Arenac County Park in AuGres – surpass the Environmental Protection Agency’s ambient standards for E. Coli. The CMDHD and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) also use these standards.

EPA standards, according to the DEQ Web site, say “All waters of the state protected for total body contact recreation shall not contain more than 130 Escherichia coli (E. coli) per 100 milliliters (ml), as a 30-day geometric mean. Compliance shall be based on the geometric mean of all individual samples taken during five or more sampling events representatively spread over a 30-day period. Each sampling event shall consist of three or more samples taken at representative locations within a defined sampling area. At no time shall the water of the state protected for total body contact recreation contain more than a maximum of 300 E. coli per 100 ml. Compliance shall be based on the geometric mean of three or more samples taken during the same sampling event at representative locations within a defined sampling area.”

If the magic numbers are 130 E. Coli for a 30-day mean and 300 E. Coli at any given time, or daily mean, then only the Singing Bridge Public Access in Whitney Township has been contaminated for over a month, as it’s 30-day mean was 239. It’s daily mean was 557 when tested on July 23. The daily mean was also surpassed in tests on June 10, June 25 and July 1. It was put on advisory July 9.

Janeczko says the Whitney Township Access site is becoming a recurring problem when it comes to E. Coli.

“That’s the beach I’m most concerned about,” Janeczko said. “I don’t understand why that one is consistently high.

“We’re going to be taking more samples and try to get to the bottom of it.”

The Singing Bridge Beach Public Access was closed for nine days by the DEQ in 2006 and has had 16 closure advisories issued since 2003.

Although Singing Bridge had contamination for the longest time, White’s Beach in Standish Township was the most saturated with E. Coli in the tests conducted on July 23. It’s 30-day mean, 41.63, was well below monthly standards, but it’s daily mean skyrocketed on the 23rd, scoring 2419.6 – over eight times higher than EPA standards. White’s Beach also exceeded standards in a July 15 test, but by only 10 E. Coli per 100 ml, scoring 310.

“Out there, the water’s very, very shallow and it is a water fowl area,” Janeczko said, adding where animals frequently dip in the bay, the amount of bacteria increases.

White’s Beach was closed once in 2007 for three days and twice in 2006 for a total of four days. Since 2003, it has had 11 contamination advisories issued against it.

For the Arenac County Parks Board, a public relations issue may be on hand, as one of it’s two beaches, and it’s only county park on Saginaw Bay, had more than four times the daily mean of E. Coli, as tests showed approximately 1463.6 E. Coli per 100 ml n July 23. The 30-day mean was 56.12. Contamination advisories were also issued for this beach in 2005, for two days, and 2004, for eight days.

Janeczko says, though, that the AuGres Park is usually not highly contaminated, but that park personnel reported to him that a large algae bloom had recently washed ashore, possibly increasing the amount of bacteria at the beach.

The final beach issued a contamination advisory for its E. Coli levels was the 16th Street Beach, Sims Township, which had a daily mean of approximately 426.5 per the July 23 test.

The starting date for the White’s Beach contamination advisory was July 15. The Arenac County Park and 16th Street Beach advisories were issued July 24. As of Monday, Aug. 3, all the advisories were lifted besides at Singing Bridge.

All statistics are courtesy the DEQ’s BeachGuard Web site, http://www.deq.state.mi.us/beach.

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