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Handful of metro Detroit beaches remain closed due to bacteria from stormwater

Posted at 10:15 PM, Jul 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-01 23:24:09-04

ST. CLAIR SHORES, Mich- (WXYZ) — Roughly 20 beaches around metro Detroit had to close last week after tests showed high E. coli levels. The majority of those beaches have since reopened, but a handful of beaches still remain closed, including Memorial Beach along Lake St. Clair in St. Clair Shores.

Test results at Memorial Beach from Wednesday showed 2,164 E. coli per 100 Milliliters, which is more than seven times the maximum allowed amount of 300 E Coli. Nineteen other beaches were closed last week in Oakland County, 16 of them have reopened.

"We think that these closures are directly attributable to the rainstorms that we’ve been having,” said Mark Hansell, Chief of Special Programs for the Oakland County Health Division Environmental Health Unit.

Hansell and his team monitor about 100 beaches, including Independence Oaks County Park which remains closed.

"Our two public beaches that are closed, we know that there’s a significant goose population that hangs around those beaches,” Hansell said.

Geese are one of the main causes of high E. coli levels since during rain storms, their droppings along the beach get washed into the water.

“Anything that might be in or around the beach in a runoff path is going to be carried into that lakewater and is going to show up on our water samples,” Hansell said.

Swimming in water with high levels of bacteria has serious health concerns.

“It’s a relatively straightforward topic. Don’t go swimming in water that has dangerous stuff,” said Dr. Matthew Sims, Director of Infectious Disease Research at Beaumotn Health.

Dr. Sims says wading in the water could lead to skin infection especially if you have open cuts. Even though the tests only show E. coli levels, when those are high, there’s likely other bacteria too.

"If you swallow any of the water you can get GI infection, if it gets in your eyes you can get eye infection,” Dr. Sims explained.

While most beaches that closed have reopened, the constant rain helps to keep the others closed. Local health officials hope to find a way to get the remaining beaches open for the Fourth of July.

“We are able to sample those again tomorrow, hopefully, and we’ll have a result on Friday," Hansell said. "We’re really hoping we can get these beaches open for the weekend.”

You can find test results and closures online at the Michigan Beachguard: https://www.egle.state.mi.us/beach/Default.aspx.