LORAIN — Lakeview Park’s beach may be beautiful, but caution is advised on days when the bacterial count is high.
On Monday — the most recent day data were available — the beach had a bacteria count of 1,120 colonies per 100 milliliter, which is more than four times the state’s daily maximum bacterial standard of 235, which triggers a swim advisory.
Last year, Lakeview had the dubious distinction of having the second-dirtiest water in Ohio, exceeding the standard 51 percent of the time. The worst was the Edson Creek beach in Erie County, which exceeded the standard 52 percent of the time.
Ohio’s beaches rank 29th out of 30 states, according to the 22nd annual beach water quality report released Wednesday by the Natural Resources Defense Council, a nonprofit environmental organization.
Overall, America’s beaches saw the third-highest number of closing and advisory days in more than two decades in 2011, largely from stormwater runoff and sewage pollution, which can make people sick.
There is little that Lakeview Park’s operator, the Lorain County Metro Parks, can do to address the bacteria issue, according to Metro Parks Director Jim Ziemnik.
The breakwall that shields swimmers and protects against erosion also limits the ability of the beach to flush out pollutants, Ziemnik said.
Some of the problem originates from runoff from farms in Lorain and Medina counties because some of the bacteria strains are from bovine sources, and there aren’t any cows walking around on the beach, he said.
“When the numbers run high and we get these high fecal counts, a lot of that comes from the Black River,” Ziemnik said.
Natural Resources Defense Council spokesman Josh Mogerman said work is needed to separate combined storm and sanitary sewers.
“You have a rain event come in and all of the sudden you have stormwater running into the sewer system overwhelming things,” he said. “Things get backed up and that mix of rainwater and sewage ends up in the basement or getting flushed into the Great Lakes.”
Unfortunately, funds are lacking on the local, state and federal levels to address all of the problems at once, and climate change is compounding the problem, Mogerman said.
“The climate modelers see an increase in violent rainstorms — those are the storms that overwhelm the sewer system,” Mogerman said.
The Lorain Health Department advises individuals to check water quality advisories on the Ohio Department of Health website, said Fleming Mosely, director of environmental health.
The bacteria counts may be a day or two old, but they give a good idea of what you may find at the beach, he said.
The best day for low bacteria counts was June 15 when the level was just 34 bacterial colonies per 100 milliliters — well under the state’s daily maximum, he said.
When there are high counts at Lakeview or another Lorain beach, at Century Park, the city Health Department posts warning signs at the entrance to the beaches, Mosely said.
“The beaches don’t close — the advisories mean children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems are advised not to swim,” he said.
“The water in the lake is not treated,” Mosely said. “Enjoy it, but take care not to ingest water.”
The beach report stated that the Century Park beach exceeded state standards 19 percent of the time.
The two beaches in Lorain have frequent monitoring, but just seven samples were taken at the Miller Road Park beach and Veterans Park beach in Avon Lake in 2011, according to the report. None of the samples at Miller Road Park exceeded state standards, and two of the seven samples at Veterans Park exceeded the standards.
Mogerman said precautions at the beach are wise when the bacteria counts are high.
“People need to know when there’s a problem with bacteria in the water that they should not go swimming with cuts or rashes,” Mogerman said. “As a parent, you’re taking your kid to the beach for fun but if they gulp down water and get sick, that’s not fun for anyone.”
Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or firstname.lastname@example.org.