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Bathing Beaches

Surface Water Sampling

Guidelines for Total Body Contact

Bathing Beach Sample Results

Harmful Algal Blooms 

Surface Water Sampling

WHERE WE SAMPLE: Luna Pier Beach, Avalon Beach, Bolles Harbor, Sterling State Park, Woodland Beach, Pointe Aux Peaux, and Estral Beach on Lake Erie. 

WHEN WE SAMPLE: From one to two weeks before Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend.  Each Tuesday samples are collected at the two Lake Erie beach locations, three samples taken per location at different areas of the beach.

WHAT WE TEST FOR AND WHEN RESULTS ARE AVAILABLE:   The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality certified laboratory that we use tests for E.coli per 100 milliliters of water. 

Sample results are available on the Monroe County website by 5:00 pm Thursday afternoon each week of sampling, and also on Beachguard.

ADVISORIES:  When sample levels have risen above the Michigan Public Health Code guideline for E.coli levels in surface water, a full body contact advisory for the appropriate body of water or bathing beach will be issued by the Monroe County Health Department.  A whole body contact advisory means that persons should not immerse their heads under water or enter the water with scrapes or cuts which may expose them to E.coli bacteria.

POSTING OF SIGNS:  In accordance with the bathing beach monitoring law that went into effect on March 31, 2003, all owners of public bathing beaches are responsible for posting a sign that states whether the beach water has been tested.  If yes, the posting must indicate where results of the water testing are available to the public.

Guidelines for Total Body Contact of Surface Water

The Michigan Public Heath Code has issued the following guidelines for total
body contact with water containing Escherichia coli (E.coli).  

130 E.coli colonies per 100 milliliters of water as a geometric mean of
all samples collected over a 30-day period.

300 E.coli colonies per 100 milliliters of water as a geometric mean of
all samples collected at a beach during one sampling event.

When water sample results exceed these guidelines, the Monroe County Health
Department recommends persons avoid full body contact with that particular
body of water until further test results indicate E.coli levels have dropped below
the levels listed above.

Streams and creeks, connected to county and private drain systems, have
carried the heavy burden of draining the landscape to allow us to develop the
land that predominately was a low-lying marsh landscape.  The river shuttles
vast amounts of water from the inland landscape and form an entire river
“water shed”.   The River Raisin Watershed encompasses over 100 square

The Monroe County Health Department, Environmental Health Division provides
the service of water testing and monitoring in at selected Lake Erie beach areas.  Other beach owners have the option of sampling their waters and must submit those sample results if they elect to sample.

Beach Samples


Sample Date

Daily / 30 Day Geometric Mean*

Body Contact Advisory Yes/No

 Luna Pier Beach 09/01/15 26 / 34  No
 Bolles Harbor 09/01/15 4 / 20  No
Sterling State Park  09/01/15 1 / 4  No
Woodland Beach  09/01/15 2 / 8  No
 Pointe Aux Peaux 09/01/15 3 / 13 No
Avalon Beach  09/01/15 1 / 6  No
Estral Beach  09/01/15 6 / 6   No 
 Detroit Beach 09/01/15 1 / 1   No 





*Number of E.coli colonies/100 milliliters of water Daily Geometric Mean/30 Day Geometric Mean




What are Algae?
Algae are small photosynthetic organisms found in almost every environment on Earth.  Under the right conditions, such as high nutrients and sunlight, algae can grow rapidly and “bloom.” Algal blooms often accumulate on the surface of waterbodies, giving the water a green, brown, or red appearance. 

What is a Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB)?
A Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) is a bloom of certain types of algal species that produce toxins as it blooms or dies. These toxins may harm wildlife and humans when ingested or inhaled.  In the Great Lakes, the algal species that are commonly associated with HABs are the cyanobacteria or blue-green algae known as Microcystis.

What effects do HABs have on people and wildlife?
HABs can cause illness and death in humans, pets, and wildlife.  Symptoms include:

• Skin rash
• Nausea and vomiting
• Cardiac or respiratory failure
• Acute liver failure
• Muscle cramps
• Twitching
• Paralysis

What factors affect HABs?
Nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, can contribute to blooms. Sources of nutrients include agricultural activities, application of lawn fertilizers, wastewater treatment facilities, septic tanks, sewer overflows, and runoff. Warm surface water temperatures can also contribute to blooms.

Do HABs occur in the Great Lakes?
Yes. The Great Lakes have a history of HABs, particularly in warm, shallow areas such as Saginaw Bay and western Lake Erie. Scientists have attributed this latest resurgence of HABs to the invasion of zebra and quagga mussels.

What can I do about HABS?
• When you see an algal bloom, the safest course of action to take is to stay away from the water. Also, keep pets away from the water as the toxins can also harm them.
• Remember that you can’t always see, taste, or smell harmful algae. Rinse yourself and your pets off after swimming. Do not drink lake or river water. Bring water for your pets; drinking untreated water may also harm them.
• Obey beach closures and advisories.
• Report suspected blooms to your local health department. You can contact Dan Hidalgo at the Monroe County Health Department at 734-240-7900 or to find contact information for your local health department see this site.

For More Information

Bathing Beach sampling results for Michgian http://www.deq.state.mi.us/beach/

Harmful Algal Blooms: A newly emerging pathogen in water.

NOAA Center of Excellence for Great Lakes and Human Health

NOAA Monitoring and Event Response for Harmful Algal Blooms

Search for Public Beaches in Michigan

MSU Center for Water Sciences Pathogen Workshop Site

Subscribe to NOAA's weekly HAB forecast for Lake Erie

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