The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

July 7, 2007

Lake Erie swimmers splash in quality water

Swimmers who frolicked in Lake Erie over the holiday enjoyed some of the cleanest beach water to be had in Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

The state routinely checks water quality at 23 Lake Erie beaches, and the results logged at four Ashtabula County beaches so far this summer rate among the best, officials said.

"It looks great to me," said Scott Binns, of the ODH's beach monitoring program. "It's been great for the majority of June. If the weather holds up, (water quality) shouldn't be a problem.

"Everybody should have a great time out there," he said.

Beach water is tested four times a week at a private laboratory to determine levels of E. coli bacteria. If levels are too high, or other health concerns are detected, signs can be posted advising swimmers of the risk.

The four county locations examined - - Geneva, Walnut Beach and Lake Shore Park (Ashtabula) and Conneaut Township Park - - are generally among the cleanest lake beaches in Ohio.

Beaches were sampled 45 days in 2006, and the beaches exceeded standards only a handful of days, according to ODH information. Lake Shore Park exceeded the standard 13 times, followed by Walnut Beach and Conneaut (9) and Geneva (8).

Warning signs had to be posted 27 days at Lake Shore Park, trailed by Conneaut (15), Geneva (14) and Walnut Beach (11), according to ODH information.

A variety of conditions can affect water quality analysis, Binns said. Summer storms often wash gunk and goo in local streams into Lake Erie, and those contaminates affect state test results, he said. Last summer the region was rocked by heavy rains that generated flood conditions.

By following a few precautions, people can splash in Lake Erie with no health fears, Binns said.

"Don't drink the water," he said. "If people get sick, it's because they swallowed water, not because they got it on their skin."

Don't put ashes or debris on the beach, avoid water that contains algae or looks brackish and shower as soon as possible after your swim session, Binns said.

"And pay due diligence to the signs on the beach," he said. "Use a little common sense, and you can have a good time."

- - MARK TODD - Staff Writer

Star Beacon Print Edition: 7/5/2007

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