The state began taking samples for another season of water testing at 39 state park beaches on Monday. The tests are measuring bacteria in the water and microcystins, which are toxins created by blue/green algae. Beach monitoring coordinator, Jason McCurdy, says there’s more to the testing than stepping to the water’s edge and grabbing a sample.
“We don’t just collect from one spot, we’re basically collecting water from several points within it to kind of give you a composite to let you know that on average this is was the bacteria level is or microcystin level is in that swimming area,” McCurdy says. To be more specific, the testing is done at three points at each beach and at three different water levels.
“You’ll have an ankle depth sample, a knee depth sample and a sample that’s collected at chest depth,” according to McCurdy. “What we do with each of those nine points within that swimming area, is we combine that into a composite bottle, and then we shake that bottle up and we’ll pour it into the bottle that we are going to use to run the test. And that kind of gives us an average of what the water quality conditions are throughout that entire swimming area.”
The monitoring program started back in 1999, and that provides a base of information on areas to watch. “Looking over the last several years we’ve been able to draw some conclusions about which of our beaches are more prone to some of those bacteria problems,” McCurdy says.
He says they have also more recently been able to tell which ones are prone problems caused by the blue/green algae. Beaches are classified as being vulnerable, transitional or less vulnerable based on their testing history. The first testing results will be released today, and McCurdy says the recent wet weather will likely make an impact.
He says the lake levels are coming up and that could also mean that bacteria has been washed in by the water. Advisories will be posted at the beaches that register above the accepted levels for bacteria or microsystins. You can find the beach monitoring results on the DNR website at: www.iowadnr.gov.