It may be a little early yet to hop in the waters at a state beach, but the Department of Natural Resources has started it’s water testing program. The D-N-R’s Mary
Skopec says they test the water at state beaches looking for e-coli bacteria. She says the presence of e-coli can indicate pathogens or things that cause disease. Skopec says they take samples on Monday and usually have the tests back by Thursday or Friday, and if the levels are high they post a warning that “swimming is not recommended.”
Skopec says they no longer ban swimming, instead leaving it up to the individual.
Skopec says, “We decided that banning swimming really isn’t the best way to go. Because at this point we don’t have proof that we’ve got a problem with swimming.” She says the test indicates there may be a problem, so they recommend that people wait until the levels come back down before they swim.
Skopec says there are several things to consider before swimming in at a beach where there have been high levels of bacteria. Skopec says you need to think about the conditions before you swim. If it has rained heavily, bacteria could’ve been washed into the water and it will take some sunlight to bring the bacteria levels down.
Skopec says they’ve have some classifications for beaches based on the past six years of testing — including those tagged “vulnerable.” She says these beaches have high levels of bacteria for much of the season. Skopec says when they get a high level of bacteria on a vulnerable beach, they post it for swimming right away. Those which are less vulnerable need to have repeated levels of high bacteria before they’re posted.
Skopec says there’s also a third level — beaches that’re improving. Skopec says these “transitional” beaches have seen work to keep bacteria out of the water. Once they find the tests are showing less bacteria, those beaches are moved to the “less vulnerable” category. To see the weekly beach test results, surf to the D-N-R Web site at www.iowadnr.com and click on “Beach Monitoring.”
The first testing found Emerson Bay State Park beach at West Okoboji Lake had high levels of bacteria and it will be posted recommending against swimming.