Why does Chippewa County Health Department monitor public recreational waters?


    Chippewa County Health Department (CCHD) in cooperation with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) monitors the surface water along the shorelines of our Great Lakes and Inland Lake beachfronts to assure a safe and healthy recreational experience for those who visit Chippewa County beaches. Surface water samples are tested for Escherichia coli (E. coli), which at high levels indicates that contamination by waterfowl, 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.



    Why does CCHD Test for E. coli bacteria?

    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 samples exceed the standard limit, the beach location is posted closed to the public. The required limit for Michigan is 300 E. coli per 100 mL of sample. If sample results pass the 300 E. coli threshold, swimming at the beach would then be posted closed and CCHD would resample the surface water and the beach would remain closed until E. coli levels resume to safe levels. 

    What are the Michigan Water Quality Standards?

    Water Quality Standard: Swimming in water with bacteria levels compliant with the water quality standards does not eliminate the risk of illness, nor does swimming in water not compliant with standards indicate absolute illness.

    Indicator of the Presence of Sewage/Wastewater: E. coli bacteria is a naturally occurring bacteria that lives 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.

    What are sources 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 and domestic animal waste, and agricultural runoff.

    What should I do if I think I have an illness associated with swimming in the water?

    Classic symptoms of a waterborne illness are vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain. If you experience any of these symptoms, you are advised to see your regular physician or report to the Emergency Room.

    How do I report a waterborne illness?

    CCHD can be contacted at any time at (906) 635-3620 during regular business hours 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. If you are reporting an illness after hours, you may call the CCHD after hours number at (906) 635-1568.

    Where does CCHD Test the Water Samples?

    Water samples are collected routinely Monday through Thursday and tested at the Lake Superior State University Water Laboratory.

    How quickly do you get the sample results?

    Typically E. coli analysis takes up to 48 hours to complete the process.  

    What is a No Body Contact Advisory?

    A No Body Contact Advisory means there is a known potential source of bacterial contamination, such as combined sewage overflows from a municipal sewage treatment facility, which at high levels may cause illness. When CCHD issues a No Body Contact Advisory people should avoid any contact with the water, including small watercraft users as well.

    Is a beach closure the same as a No Body Contact Advisory?

    A beach closure is specific to that beach location and is typically associated with natural contaminants such as storm run-off or heavy rain events. A No Body Contact Advisory covers a larger amount of water area used by the public.

    Where can I get up-to-date  water quality results?

    All surface water sample results for Chippewa County Great Lake or Inland Lake beaches tested can be viewed online at www.chippewahd.com.

    How do I know if my private shoreline beach is safe for swimming?

    If you would like the surface water tested in front of your home, you may contact CCHD for instructions. Due to lab testing times, arrangements must be made for sample collection and drop off. A fee is required for private shoreline samples.