PORTLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Health officials are warning people to avoid contact with the Grand River in Ionia County after discovering high levels of E. coli in the water.
The Ionia County Health Department says June 3 river samples taken at Kent Street in Portland and Bridge Street in Saranac showed high levels of E. coli. The mean of the Saranac sample was 1,257 E. coli per 100 mL and 1,181 E. coli per 100 mL at Portland.
“The reason it covers the entire county is Portland is on the east side, Saranac is close to the west side of the county, it would make sense to include the entire river in Ionia County,” Ionia County Health Officer Ken Bowen told 24 Hour News 8 Thursday afternoon.
Bowen moved to put the advisory in place after the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy — the new name for the state environmental agency — conducted the testing as part of an ongoing study. A representative from EGLE told 24 Hour News 8 testing included in the study will happen every Monday for the next seven weeks.
There’s no way to know the exact cause of the E. coli spike, but Bowen said there are a few frequent causes.
“There are usually three sources: One is sewer overflow from wastewater treatment facilities, another is agricultural runoff and another — it’s a smaller one, but still a factor — is failing specific systems,” Bowen explained. “So it could be any one of those things, it could be a combination of all three. This time of year, with all the rain we’ve had, it’s probably a good chance that it’s sewage overflow with a combination of agricultural runoff but again, that’s speculation.”
The state is expected to conduct more testing June 10. At that time, Bowen will re-evaluate the results and determine whether the advisory should stay in place.
EGLE says extra precautions should be taken if people decide to still go in the water. Wash your hands thoroughly. If you still plan to eat fish you catch in the river, wash it and cook it separately from other food.
Portland City Manager Tutt Gorman learned about the test results only after the Ionia County Health Department received data from the state.
“We have some disappointment with EGLE … with their communications or the lack thereof,” Tutt told 24 Hour News 8. “We appreciate the notification (from the county). We want to make sure our residents are safe, but at the same time we need more information to provide them so they can as those decisions.”
After the advisory went into place, Gorman moved to have the city conduct its own testing. He expects to have results, which he hopes will show Portland is in the clear, by Friday.