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article imageBeaches are not always the best choice during a heat wave

By Karen Graham     Aug 12, 2018 in Health
From Vancouver, British Columbia to Michigan and Maine, beaches are being closed due to contamination by a nasty bug that can make humans and pets sick - E. coli. or the health risks associated with toxic algae blooms.
Summer has not been very nice this year. Besides a long-lasting heatwave across most of North America that have sent temperatures into the triple digits, trying to cool off has also become a serious problem, especially for those folks wanting to go to the beach to cool off.
And don't even think about going in the water on Florida's Gulf coast. The state is dealing with the worst toxic algae bloom in years that has spread from Tampa Bay to Sarasota to Naples. Since this particular bloom began last November, more than 7,600 water samples have been processed by the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute as part of the monitoring process.
In past outbreaks over the last 20 years, fish and fisheries have been able to rebound, the commission says. There has also been speculation that over-development and climate change are factors in this toxic algae bloom being worse than usual, according to USA Today.
Vancouver beaches closed to swimming
Vancouver Coastal Health is warning people and their pets that swimming in the waters of English Bay, Jericho, and Sunset Beaches could end up making them sick. These beaches join Trout Lake and Bowen Island's Snug Cove, which have had warnings in effect since July 19 and June 20, respectively, reported CBC Canada.
Beaches in Metro Vancouver are tested weekly throughout the swimming season to determine compliance with the Canadian Recreational Water Quality Guidelines, 2012. Recreational waters must be within a level of ≤ 200 E.coli bacteria per 100 milliliters of water for primary contact recreational activities.
To be specific, primary contact includes swimming, surfing, water skiing, in which the whole body or face and trunk are frequently immersed or wetted, and where water will likely be swallowed. This also would include wading along the shore or wetting the hands.
Escherichia coli is also a proteobacteria.
Escherichia coli is also a proteobacteria.
NIAID
E. coli contamination monitoring
Escherichia coli, commonly called E. coli, is an indicator organism used to monitor for fecal contamination and the possible presence of other more harmful microbes, such as Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Shigella, and norovirus.
Some possible sources of fecal contamination include agricultural runoff, wildlife that uses the water as their natural habitat, runoff from areas contaminated with pet manure, waste-water treatment plants, and on-site septic systems.
Diseases acquired from contaminated water can cause gastrointestinal illness, skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic, and wound infections. The most commonly reported symptoms are stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and low-grade fever.
Current closures and advisories are displayed above
Current closures and advisories are displayed above
Department of Environmental Quality
Nine Michigan beaches closed due to contamination
Nine area beaches in Michigan have either advisories or outright closures ordered as of Sunday morning, according to Michigan News.
Michigan beaches are monitored by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's Beach Guard system. In the state of Michigan, water for contact recreation must not contain more than 130 E. coli per 100 milliliters of water. And all surface waters of the state are designated and protected for total body contact recreation from May 1 to October 31.
Ogunquit s famed Marginal Way  a mile-long public footpath.
Ogunquit's famed Marginal Way, a mile-long public footpath.
State of Maine beach closures
Maine has 46 public beaches and recreational waters on its coast, of which 37 of these are participating in the Maine Healthy Coastal Beaches Program. The Maine Healthy Coastal Beaches Program is currently monitoring these waters
Maine has an interesting and somewhat round-about way of letting the public know the status of the state's beaches. As a matter of fact, on the "Today's Beach Status" page, there is a disclaimer in red reading: "Information on this site may not reflect current beach conditions. Contact the local beach manager for current beach status."
And here is something even stranger - two things are considered in determining if a beach should be closed. First, there is the bacterial count using E. coli as the indicator organism. Maine uses an E. coli level of 104 organisms per 100 milliliters of water at which a failure is indicated or if the geometric mean of 35 counts of Enterococci per 100 mL of water in at least five samples collected over a 30-day period is exceeded.
But even if the E. coli count exceeds the limits, as shown above, there is still a chance the beach won't be closed. This is because one further assessment has to be made. Maine’s Healthy Coastal Beaches Risk Assessment Matrix has to be filled out to make the final determination.
Basically, there has to be regular water quality testing in order to use the matrix in coming up with a letter score for determining a healthy beach. It may seem like a lot of work, but it also takes into account the best efforts in monitoring water quality. Needless to say, as for beach closings, Wilkies Beach in Gray. was closed due to contamination the other day.
The bottom line is really quite simple, folks. Regardless of which beach or lake you want to enjoy during this hot weather, check with your state department of the environment first. While every state is different, all states must comply with EPA water quality standards, for now, at least.
More about Summer, Heat wave, Beaches, Contamination, e cioli