Anne Marie Coy of the Bayfield County Health Department has sent Parks and Lands Chairman Michael O’Bryon, notice that testing for E-coli bacteria will be done every two weeks (give or take) of the Cornucopia beaches this summer. They will have signs that they will get up in the next couple of days that will do a flag that will support those tests. Basically, the beaches are tested to make sure the E-coli level (a fecal bacteria) is not rising due to temperature, contamination, rainfall, etc. Ms Coy states that “all surface water has bacteria, but only some of the bacteria are fecal bacteria and of that, only a small amount is actually pathogenic. So – as the bacteria level rises, the chance of getting ill after accidental ingestion rise. They usually say that when the water has less than 235 CFU of E-coli, 1 in 1000 people could get sick with a gastrointestinal illness. When it is above 235 (advisory levels) 8 in 1000 beachgoers get sick, and when it is above 1000CFU (Closure standard), 14 people out of 1000 beachgoers get sick. Also – as the E-coli level increases, this indicates other types of bacteria that can not be tested for are also higher and could cause increases in skin reactions, staph infection, or other infectious agents. The elderly and small children, or anyone with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to illness as the rates increase. Usually the bacteria level decreases in deeper water – unfortunately, children, who are the most susceptible to accidental water ingestion, play near shore, where the bacteria loads are often the highest”.
Here’s a link to the DNR protocol Bayfield County uses. http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/Beaches/documents/BeachMonitoringRequirements.pdf