LORAIN — The beautiful beach at Lakeview Park is alluring to swimmers looking to cool off on a hot summer day, but beneath the waters may also be bacteria that can turn a day of swimming into a few unpleasant days of sickness.
The Lorain County Metro Parks warns swimmers via a daily advisory system. A high bacteria advisory — particularly that of E. coli that can lead to vomiting and diarrhea — won’t close the beach, but it will let swimmers know the risk before they take a dip.
According to the state Health Department’s website, a sample of the water is taken daily before 8 a.m. and the level of E. coli bacteria is checked. When a value exceeds the Ohio Water Quality recommendations for public beaches — 235 colonies of E. coli per 100 milliliters of water — a high-bacteria advisory is listed for the beach.
Bryan Goldthorpe, Lakeview’s park manager, said he is alerted daily of what the advisory should be. Notices are then placed in four locations in the park as well as a flag system that is pretty simple to understand — red means swim advisory, yellow means no advisory.
“We’re not closing the beach with the advisories, just telling swimmers that they should be aware,” he said. “Children, elderly and those in ill health or weakened immune systems should not swim on those days.”
There is little Lorain County Metro Parks can do to address the bacteria. The breakwall that shields swimmers and protects against erosion also limits the ability of the beach to flush out pollutants.
Weather also plays a huge role.
“Generally, the rule of thumb is if it’s a stormy day, odds are the bacteria levels will be high the next day,” Goldthorpe said. “The rain stirs up all the fecal matter in the water from seagulls, fish and sewer runoffs.”
Lakeview is one of the most popular parks in the district’s portfolio with close to 1 million visitors a year. The beach is merely a quarter-mile long, but swimming is only allowed in an area of roughly 450 feet.
Lakeview Beach is monitored by the Cuyahoga County Health District on behalf of the Ohio Department of Health. Monitoring began daily on May 27 and will run until Sept. 2 to coincide with the swim season.
There have been four high advisory periods this season with the shortest being one day and the longest lasting for four days.
The highest bacteria levels of the year thus far were reported June 1. At that time, the E. coli level was more than 4,300 colonies per 100 milliliters of water. The reading coincides with a huge thunderstorm that saturated the area in the days prior.
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.