Beach bums have many public choicesWhen the summer temperatures rise, local residents often seek out a nice public beach where they can cool off. There are at least 11 spots to choose from across St. Croix County. Among the choices:
By: By Jeff Holmquist, Hudson Star-Observer
When the summer temperatures rise, local residents often seek out a nice public beach where they can cool off.
There are at least 11 spots to choose from across St. Croix County.
Among the choices:
Since 2003, county Environmental Health Specialist Edward Thurman has been testing public beaches to determine if the water is safe.
“We’re extremely fortunate in St. Croix County,” he said. “Every one of our beaches is extremely safe.”
About the only time a St. Croix County beach’s health declines is after a “significant rain event” that washes run-off into the water. Thurman said E. coli levels will often spike 24 to 48 hours after such a big rain storm.
Only then might the E. coli levels recorded on local beaches stretch beyond the “235” level. If they escalate above that level, beaches are placed under an “advisory,” and caution signs are posted on the beach.
Thurman said those beaches can still be used, but lake users are encouraged to wash off after leaving the beach. Young children, who are more susceptible to getting sick, are encouraged to stay away from infected waters.
If E. coli levels exceed 1,000, the beach will be closed for swimming and other recreational activities.
Elevated E. coli levels on St. Croix County’s beaches are rare, Thurman noted.
But that doesn’t mean they never happen. A couple of beaches near Hudson faced escalated E. coli levels last spring due to run-off from a nearby construction site.
“We’ve never had bad problems,” he said. “It’s a very, very, very low risk in the county.”
Because the risk is low, Thurman tests the water at local beaches just once a month. Officials at Willow River State Park do their own testing there, and they check the beach once a week.
“But if any problems come up, we’re prepared to do more testing and investigation,” Thurman added.
Apart from the 11 public beaches that are tested, Thurman also takes weekly water samples at tubing places along the Apple River in Somerset, including River’s Edge Campground, Float-Rite Park and Apple River Hideaway.
For more information on beach health, go to www.co.saint-croix.wi.us/Departments/HHS/PH/EHealth/default.htm.
When is the beach season in Wisconsin?
The beach monitoring season is from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend (approximately 14 weeks).
What signs might I find at the beach?
Signs are intended to inform the public about the most current water conditions based on testing for Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires that beaches be posted with an advisory sign informing the public of increased health risk when a water sample exceeds 235 colony-forming units of E. coli per 100 milliliters of water.
Yellow “caution” signs shall be posted when the EPA health standard is exceeded. This sign remains posted until the next daily sample shows the conditions have changed. The red “closed” sign is posted when a water sample shows more than 1,000 colony-forming units of E. coli are present per 100 mL, or under any other conditions that the local health department considers a public health risk.
What is E. coli?
Escherichia coli (E. coli) is a bacterium commonly found in natural bodies of water. Some strains of E. coli, such as E. coli 0157:H7, are associated with potentially deadly food poisoning. But the strain of E. coli being tested for at coastal beaches in itself poses a low probability of making swimmers ill. Instead, the bacteria serves as an indicator of the possible presence of other health risks in the water, such as bacteria, viruses and other organisms.