Monroe County Recreational Waters
Monroe County Health Department Environmental Health Division staff are active in monitoring the recreational public waters of the county. Pools at public complexes (such as apartments and hotels) and the public bathing beaches of Lake Erie have water sampling performed on them on a weekly basis during open periods of the year.
The Lake Erie bathing beaches are sampled by Environmental Health staff on Tuesdays between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Please see the bathing beaches page for sample results, direct body contact guidelines and information on Harmful Algal Blooms.
Guidelines for Total Body Contact
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.
Sample results are available on the Monroe County website by 5:00 pm
Thursday afternoon each week of sampling.
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 rivers shuttle
vast amounts of water from the inland landscape and form an entire river
“water shed”. The River Raisin Watershed encompasses over 100 square
miles. Rivers are community resources because contamination or unhealthy
alteration above stream can dramatically alter the waterside experience of
The ‘times’ are changing in Monroe County; we are placing new demands on
the Lake and Stream ecosystems and increasing the expectation that resources
are cared for and healthy. In turn, helping us to maintain healthy drinking water,
safe swimming, angling and boating opportunities.
The Monroe County Health Department, Environmental Health Division provides
the service of water testing and monitoring in beach areas and selected points
along the river.
WHERE WE SAMPLE: 8 locations along Lake Erie in Monroe County.
WHEN WE SAMPLE: From one to two weeks before Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend. Each Tuesday samples are collected at the four Lake Erie beach locations.
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. The Michigan Public Health Code has issued the following guidelines for total body contact with water containing 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.
Sample results are available on the Monroe County website by 5:00 pm Thursday afternoon each week of sampling.
ADVISORIES: When sample levels have risen above the Michigan Public Health Code guideline for E.colilevels 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.colibacteria.
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.
HARMFUL ALGAL BLOOMS (HABs)
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 water bodies, 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
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 Jason Childress or Andy McCain at the Monroe County Health Department at 734-240-7900 or to find contact information for your local health department see http://www.deq.state.mi.us/beach/public/search_hd.aspx
For More Information
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
More information on Harmful Algal Blooms
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT BEACHES
1. Can I swim at a beach that has advisory on it?
Although the beach is not closed, this office highly recommends not swimming at a beach that has an advisory issued.
2. Can I eat fish caught in a contaminated water body?
Yes and no. If the only concern is E. coli contamination, yes, as long as the fish is thoroughly cooked to a temperature that meets or exceeds the requirements set forth by the FDA food code which is cooked above 145 F. If the concern is toxins or other chemical constituents, then we recommend that the Michigan Department of Community Health Eat Safe Fish Guide be followed, which in some cases would be no.
3. If I live on the water, can I have my beach area tested?
Yes, a water sample could be taken to a Certified Laboratory. Please contact the laboratory that you want to use to obtain sample bottles, cost quotation and times that they will accept samples.