2017-07-06 / Outdoors

High bacteria levels result in beach warnings

Water quality advisories were put in place last month at county beaches within Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

The National Park Service issued an advisory for Shalda Creek in Leelanau County and several park sites in Benzie County on Friday, June 23, after high levels of bacteria were measured during routine sampling last week.

“It’s DNA-based testing so, we’re able to get results in four hours,” National Park Service water quality biologist Chris Otto said. “Previously we’d have to culture the sample and wait 24 hours for the results.”

National Park Service personnel visit 11 sites within Sleeping Bear once a week to monitor bacteria levels at water sites. The tests results two weeks ago warranted an advisory limiting contact to below the waist and signs were posted at the sites.

In addition to Shalda Creek, advisories were issued for Platte River Outlet, Platte Point Beach and Otter Creek — all located in Benzie County.

“We re-sampled Shalda creek Friday (June 23), and the bacteria levels exceed the limit again,” Otto said.

Follow-up samples taken at the beaches four days later indicated that bacteria levels had dropped and the advisory was lifted.

What caused the high level of bacteria in the water?

Initial thoughts were that rain in the days leading up to the samplings contributed.

Not among last week’s advisory sites was the creek at Good Harbor Beach, even though a “no contact” advisory has been in place for more than a year at the site.

“Good Harbor Creek drains a wetland which could contribute to the high levels of bacteria,” Otto said.

“We haven’t come to any conclusion on the cause ... we’re continuing to monitor the situation.”

Parents are advised to limit their children’s’ exposure at Good Harbor Beach.

“The concern is that they’ll ingest some of the water,” Otto said. “Kids’ faces are much closer to the water than those of adults.”

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