December 22, 2014

Elyria
Mostly sunny
38°F
test

Tests show abnormally high bacteria count in Lake Erie

Beach-goers, including Alexandria Roth, 5, of Avon Lake, were limited to playing in the sand Friday due to high bacteria levels in Lake Erie. KRISTIN BAUER/CHRONICLE

Beach-goers, including Alexandria Roth, 5, of Avon Lake, were limited to playing in the sand Friday due to high bacteria levels in Lake Erie. KRISTIN BAUER/CHRONICLE

AVON LAKE — Anyone planning on heading to either of the city’s two lakefront parks is advised not to go into the water. Tests show abnormally high levels of Escherichia coli bacteria, commonly known as E. Coli.

Results of tests posted Thursday on Avon Lake Water’s Facebook page indicated E. coli levels measured 2,400 organisms per 100 milliliters of water at Veterans Beach, and 1,203 organisms per 100 milliliters at Miller Road Beach.

“The bacterial levels were about five times the recommended level at Miller Road Beach, and about 10 times the recommended level at Veterans’ Beach,” Todd Danielson, executive director of Avon Lake Public Utilities Department, said Friday.

Danielson blamed the high bacterial readings on a combination of sanitary sewer overflow that made its way into Lake Erie near the shoreline following this week’s heavy storms and waste from wildlife, which can contain high levels of E. coli.

The good news is that with no heavy rain forecast for the weekend, “anticipated levels of bacteria are expected to come back down,” Danielson said. “E. coli generally lives only a few days.”

The Reyes family, of Avon, packed up immediately when they were notified of the bacteria content in the water at Avon Lake's Miller Road beach. Angel Reyes said he was unaware of the bacteria content in the water until he saw a sign, and then decided to pack up. KRISTIN BAUER/CHRONICLE

The Reyes family, of Avon, packed up immediately when they were notified of the bacteria content in the water at Avon Lake’s Miller Road Beach. Angel Reyes said he was unaware of the bacteria content in the water until he saw a sign, and then decided to pack up. KRISTIN BAUER/CHRONICLE

Visiting the beaches at either park shouldn’t pose a problem for anyone, Danielson said.

“It’s getting into the water where bacteria could be ingested (by inadvertently swallowing water or getting bacterially-laden water into the body through an open cut) that could cause problems,” Danielson said.

“This is more of a near-shore phenomenon,” Danielson said, noting that boaters who jump into the lake a few hundred yards from shore are not likely to experience any problems.

“A lot of it depends on currents,” Danielson said. “As the distance from shore increases, the odds of lowered bacteria levels gets better.”

Danielson said he had not received any reports of illness that likely would be associated with the raised bacterial levels.

Avon Lake officials routinely test lake-water samples four days a week, with Thursdays being the last day testing is done before the weekend.

While overflow of raw or untreated sewage from over-burdened sanitary sewers would be a more logical source of contamination, animal waste might not be. But Danielson said geese, which are plentiful in the area, are notorious for producing a good amount of waste.

“Geese can create a huge amount of E. coli,” Danielson said.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.