However, natural bodies of water contain microorganisms regardless of how clean or clear the water may look. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pathogens that cause recreational water illnesses are spread by swallowing, breathing in the mists or aerosols from, or having contact with contaminated water in swimming pools, water parks, hot tubs, interactive fountains, water play areas, lakes, rivers, or oceans.
How does water become contaminated?
- animal waste
- rain and agricultural runoff
- faulty septic systems
- sewer overflows
- naturally occurring chemicals and minerals
- manufacturing processes
- local land use practices (fertilizers and pesticides)
5 beaches in Ottawa County are tested weekly for E. coli
(a type of bacteria found in intestines of animals and humans)
Grand Haven City Beach – Grand Haven State Park
Holland State Park – Tunnel Park – Windsnest Park
What do the results mean?
If the results of three test samples average to less than 300 E. coli per 100 milliliters of water, the risk of recreational water illnesses is minimal (single-day geometric mean). High levels of E. coli indicate fecal contamination and the possible presence of other harmful bacteria, parasites and viruses in the water. Results are posted weekly during the summer at www.miOttawa.org/BeachWatch
How can bacteria and other microbes in beach water affect me?
Beaches everywhere, and at all times, have microorganisms which can cause illness. Exposure to beach water with high levels of microbial contamination may cause ear, eye, nose and throat infections; gastrointestinal illness; or skin rashes. It may also lead to parasitic infections.
For more questions about beach water sampling please call 616-393-5645.