Q: Why does your Local Health Department (LHD) sample the surface water for public beaches?

     A: The CCHD has chosen to monitor the surface water along the shorelines and inland beachfronts to assure a safe and healthy recreational experience for those who visit Chippewa County beaches. It is also beneficial to the economy. Surface water samples are tested for Escherichia coli (E. coli), which, at high levels indicate contamination by sewage or other wastewater has occurred and that harmful bacteria may be present. By monitoring the quality of surface water at public bathing beaches, the public health is protected by managing the risk associated with swimming in open waters.


    Q: What is Surface Water Improvement and Monitoring?

     A: Surface Water Monitoring includes routine sample collection, education, investigations and enforcement in order to achieve the goal of all Chippewa County waters being in compliance with full body contact standards.



    Q: What are the Michigan Water Quality Standards? 

    A: The Michigan Public Health Code, P.A. 368 of 1978 authorizes local health departments to monitor and evaluate water quality at public beaches and to determine whether the water is safe for bathing purposes. This act also sets standards that limit the levels of E. coli at beaches called Total Body Contact Standards. If the standards exceed the required limit, the beach location is posted closed to the public.


    Q: What are the Total Body Contact Standards?

     A: The Daily Geometric Mean is the cubic root of 3 or more samples taken during the same sampling event at representative locations within a defined sample area. This shall not exceed 300 E. coli per 100 milliliters. The 30-Day Geometric Mean measures all individual samples collected during 5 or more sampling events representatively taken over a 30-day period. This shall not exceed 130 E. coli per 100 milliliters.


    Q: What is a sampling event?

    A: A sampling event consists of 3 or more samples taken at representative locations within a designated sampling area along the beach location.


    Q: Why does Chippewa County Health Department test for E. coli Bacteria?

    A: As a Water Quality Standard: Swimming in water with bacteria levels in compliance with the water quality standards does not eliminate the risk of illness. Nor does the swimming in water not in compliance with standards indicate absolute illness.

        As An Indicator of the Presence of Sewage/Wastewater: E. coli bacteria is a naturally occurring bacteria that live in the digestive tract of warm blooded animals, including humans and as such, serve as an indicator of potential bacterial pathogen contamination. The presence of E. coli bacteria in surface water indicates pollution from sewage and wastewater and the potential for other pathogens to be present.

        As a source of E. coli Bacteria: There are a variety of sources that contribute bacteria and other pathogens to the surface water. These sources include illegal waste connections to storm sewers or roadside ditches, septic systems, combined and sanitary sewer overflows, storm (rain) runoff, wild domestic animal waste, and agriculture runoff.


    Q: What is a pathogen?


    A: A pathogen is a bacteria or virus harmful to people.


    Q:  What is Clostridium perfringens?

     A:  Clostridium perfringens is an anaerobic bacteria.  Clostridium is found in the feces of humans, cats, pigs, sheep, dogs, ducks, and geese in large numbers.  Clostridium cannot reproduce in the soil but can survive for a long time in a spore stage.


    Q: Where does Chippewa County Health Department test the samples?

     A: Samples collected Monday through Thursday are tested at Lake Superior State University. Samples collected on Friday are taken to the Sault Ste Marie Water Treatment Lab.


    Q:  How quickly do you get the results of the sampling?

     A: Typically Bacteriologic Water Sample testing (specifically E.coli) will take up to 48 hours to complete the process from running the sample to receiving the results at the laboratory.


    Q: How do I report an illness associated with waterborne contamination?

     A: The Chippewa County Health Department Environmental Health Division can be contacted at any time during regular business hours (8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday thru Friday). If you experience gastro-intestinal symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, chills, abdominal cramps, fever, or malaise, you are advised to see your regular physician or report to the Emergency Room.