Causes of Beach Pollution
Some sources of beach pollution include:
- Urban runoff (domestic wastes, storm water runoff - storm water washes over rooftops, parking lots, roads, picks up fecal matter of dogs, cats, birds, etc.)
- Agricultural runoff (discharges from farm animals, overloaded septic systems)
- Sewage overflows
- Sewage treatment plant malfunctions
- Improperly handled boating wastes
Illnesses From Swimming in Polluted Water
Microorganisms found in polluted water can cause flu-like symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache and fever. Other germs can cause ear infections, eye infections, and skin rashes. In highly polluted water, swimmers may occasionally be exposed to more serious diseases like dysentery, hepatitis, cholera, and typhoid fever. Viruses that cause infectious hepatitis and polio can be transmitted to unvaccinated swimmers. In rare cases, swimmers can develop infections from exposure to polluted water through an open wound.
Beaches that are Tested
The list of beaches that are currently being tested are listed in the "Beach Conditions" section of the Laboratory page.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Coastal Beach Program
The Federal Beach Act was passed in October of 2000, requiring States that border coastal or Great Lakes waters to develop beach monitoring and public notification programs. The Beach Act also authorized the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide grants to states that have beaches bordering these coastal waters for the purpose of developing and implementing monitoring and public notification programs. The Wisconsin DNR and its partners have participated in this grant program since the 2002 swimming season. The Wisconsin Beach Monitoring Program was developed in accordance with EPA performance criteria. The Kenosha County Division of Health adheres to the performance criteria for monitoring, public notification, and reporting. The laboratory daily notifies the city, county, and state with beach monitoring results.
Criteria for Closing a Beach
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends the E. coli maximum of 235 cfu / 100 ml (colony forming units) for a single water sample. The State of Wisconsin adheres to this standard. If this level is not exceeded, a green "Water Quality Notice" sign is posted. If the E. coli level falls between 235 cfu / 100 ml and 1000 cfu / 100 ml, a yellow "Caution" sign is posted stating that the beach is under a water quality advisory. A red "Closure" sign is posted whenever the level of E. coli in the beach water sample exceeds 1000 cfu / 100 ml.
When a beach is closed due to contamination, it is tested daily until the standard of less than 235 E. coli/100 ml sample is once again achieved. The green "Water Quality Notice" sign will once again be posted when the water condition is good.
E. coli are found in feces of animals, including humans. E. coli bacteria do not necessarily make people sick, but they do indicate that other, harmful microbes are likely to be present.
Lake Michigan/Kenosha County Beach Closing Information
Call the Kenosha County Division of Health with your questions Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. Call either the general information number at 262-605-6700 or the laboratory at 262-605-6705. The county and state websites are updated daily and, therefore, have the latest available advisories.
Private Beach Testing
Residents with homes or subdivisions bordering private lakes are also encouraged to test their beach water monthly. Beach kits are available from the Kenosha County Division of Health Laboratory at a cost of $27.00 per sample.