The Watershed Center to Sample 26 Local Beaches Through September 2

TRAVERSE CITY, Michigan – June 8, 2020 – The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay will begin its annual beach testing on June 10. Twenty six area Lake Michigan and inland lake beaches in Benzie, Grand Traverse, and Leelanau counties will be tested for harmful E.coli bacteria every Wednesday through September 2.

Beach test results will be available by noon on Thursdays and posted shortly thereafter on the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy’s (EGLE) BeachGuard website, The Watershed Center Facebook page, the Grand Traverse County Health Department website, and the Benzie-Leelanau District Health Department website and Facebook page. If test results show high bacteria levels, local Health Departments will post advisories at impacted beaches and the beaches will immediately be re-tested until results return to acceptable levels.

Elevated bacteria levels, including E. coli, at beaches pose a threat to public health and cause illness, especially in young children and people with compromised immune systems. The presence of E.coli in surface water indicates fecal contamination is present at the beach, which includes a host of other harmful viruses and bacteria. Beachgoers are encouraged to take simple actions to reduce the risk of E. coli at beaches, such as not feeding ducks and other birds, disposing of diapers (including swim diapers) in trash cans, and having young children take frequent bathroom breaks.

“Every year, we are proud to be able to offer this service within the watershed,” said Sarah U’Ren, Program Director at The Watershed Center. “Our weekly testing for E.coli bacteria is an integral piece of our efforts to keep our residents, visitors, and beaches healthy.”

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, The Watershed Center also reminds beachgoers to practice “social distancing” while at beaches this summer in accordance with CDC and Health Department guidelines. While current research suggests there is a low risk of exposure to viable Coronavirus pathogens in beach waters, its main route of exposure is airborne and beach goers are still at risk of contracting the virus if social distancing measures are not followed. 

Beach goers are also reminded not to swim near storm drains, especially during and immediately after a rain event, as water from the storm drain may contain E. coli and other harmful pathogens from animal feces that are washed into the drains during a storm. The risk of elevated E. coli levels after a rain event decreases as sunlight breaks down the bacteria in open water.

Funding for beach monitoring comes from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency BEACH Act Funds, as well as EGLE’s Clean Michigan Initiative, the City of Traverse City, and Acme Township.

Testing will be conducted at the following beaches:

Lake Michigan

  • Empire Beach
  • Frankfort Beach

Grand Traverse Bay – West

  • Bryant Park (Traverse City)
  • Sunset Park (Traverse City)
  • Senior Beach (Traverse City)
  • Clinch Park (Traverse City)
  • Volleyball Beach (Traverse City)
  • West End Beach (Traverse City)
  • Greilickville Harbor Park
  • Suttons Bay Beach
  • Suttons Bay Marina Park Beach
  • Northport Beach

Grand Traverse Bay – East

  • East Bay Park (Traverse City)
  • Traverse City State Park
  • Acme Bayside Park
  • Sayler Park (Acme)

Inland Beaches

  • Almira Township Park (Lake Ann)
  • Bellows Beach (Crystal Lake)
  • Beulah Beach (Crystal Lake)
  • Gilbert Beach (Long Lake)
  • Interlochen State Park (Duck Lake)
  • Neddows Beach (Lake Leelanau)
  • South Bar Beach (South Bar Lake)
  • Taylor Beach (Long Lake)
  • Twin Lakes Park (North Twin Lake)
  • Whitewater Township Park (Elk Lake)
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