In years past, the department tested the water weekly for debris, chemicals and E. coli.
“We would look to see if there was any debris in the water or anything out of the normal,” Randy Rapp with the health department said.
The department said it made the decision earlier this year to stop testing.
“There have not been any E. coli illnesses related to bodies of water in Allegan County in the last few months,” health officer Angelique Joynes said in a statement.
Health officials report less than five outbreaks in 2018. They say the county’s beaches usually have acceptable E. coli levels unless there is significant rainfall or a pollutant enters the watershed.
The department says the testing method used after rainfall events can take up to 24 hours and that by the time it sent an advisory with the findings, the bacteria outbreak had already cleared. Because of that, it said, beaches were open when there were high E. coli counts and closed when counts were low.
So now the health department is sharing tips on how to avoid waterborne illness in general.
“It just seemed prudent at this time to educate people. That seemed like a better thing to do than to have people thinking they were safe in the water when they weren’t,” Rapp said.
Health officials recommend the following to prevent illnesses:
- Do not feed the birds
- Keep pets off the beach
- Use the restroom before swimming
- Do not swallow lake water
- Wash your hands with soap and water before eating
- Do not swim in water that smells foul
- Shower when you return home
- Avoid swimming immediately after heavy rainfall
The idea of not testing has some swimmers concerned. One swimmer told 24 Hour News 8 that even if the information is a day late, the public should know.
Officials say they will still issue advisories when there is contamination event, like a manure spill or sewage overflow. They say the public has nothing to worry about.