Ever have trouble finding which Kosciusko County beaches are closed due to high E. coli levels or wonder when they reopen? A new beach alert system will allow people to get this information immediately via website, email or text message.
Kosciusko Lakes and Streams (KLAS), the Kosciusko County Health Department and K21 Health Foundation are introducing the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s BeachGuard and BeachesAlert systems to help the community become aware of closed beaches. Though there will still be signs at the public beaches in the event of a closure, Kosciusko County lake-goers can now know of high E. coli levels before they even reach the water.
The public can browse beach information on the BeachGuard website at https://extranet.idem.in.gov/beachguard or have updates sent to them through the BeachesAlert application at www.in.gov/beachesalert. To register, click Search, select Kosciusko County on the map, then click Subscribe. Subscribers can then choose to receive information via email or text message and choose which lakes they would like to be updated on.
High E. coli levels are a common cause of beach closures. Most strains of the bacteria are harmless, though a few can cause cases of diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting if ingested.
According to Dr. Nate Bosch, director of KLAS, “E. coli in lakes is caused by sewage and waterfowl and wild animal feces getting into the water. Individuals infected with the bacteria usually recover on their own, but should contact a doctor if the infection becomes severe.”
To protect the public, when E. coli levels in public swimming beaches reach heights that threaten swimmers, the health department closes that beach to swimming. Since the main caution for E. coli is limiting ingested water, other lake activities, such as fishing and canoeing, are still permitted. Even fish caught during this time are generally safe to consume.
The health department samples E. coli levels weekly and contacts the local park manager if levels are high enough to warrant a closure. The park manager posts signs at the closed beach.
The seven public beaches sampled by the health department are Center, Pike, Syracuse (Hoy’s Beach and Syracuse Lake Beach), Waubee, Webster and Winona lakes.
So far this summer, there has only been one closure.
Staci Young, the Warsaw Parks Department recreation director, says “We are always working to keep the public safe and informed in regards to the beaches. The instant notification system will be a tremendous help.”
Kosciusko County’s inclusion in the new notification system is the result of a previous grant from K21 Health Foundation to KLAS in partnership with the health department which focused on blue-green algae and E. coli health threats.
Kosciusko Lakes and Streams is a community-based research center at Grace College focused on applied research, educational outreach and advocacy that builds community capacity to promote, enjoy and properly steward Kosciusko County’s lakes and streams.
To learn more about KLAS, visit www.water.grace.edu.