Friday, June 23, 2017

How to Know When It's Safe to Swim in Lake Erie

Posted By on Fri, Jun 23, 2017 at 1:53 PM

  • Photo via livecleveland/Instagram
As the sun and humidity begin to permeate Northeast Ohio, it's only right and natural to want to head to your local swimming hole. But with troubling reports of algae blooms and unsafe bacteria contamination in the Great Lake, how does one know when it's safe to take a dip?

Mary Clifton, recreation programs manager at the Ohio Department of Health, says that while no beach is ever officially closed in Ohio, there is an easy way to check for contamination.

The Ohio Department of Health's BeachGuard website offers up-to-date announcements on water contamination levels, based on daily water testing conducted by a team of state and county officials and scientists.

While swimming in Lake Erie, or any of Ohio's lakes, is a personal choice, Clifton says it's always best to check first.

"In Ohio we issue advisories so people can make the decisions that they are comfortable with," Clifton told Scene.

If an unsavory amount of bacteria is found at a beach, the spot will be listed with either a yellow, orange or red flag. You can guess which one is the worst.

Yellow Flag - Bacteria Contamination Alert

Posted when the level of bad bacteria in the water has reached unsafe levels and could make you sick. Children, the elderly and those in ill health or weakened immune systems are advised not to swim.

Orange Flag - Recreational Public Health Advisory
WARNING - An algal bloom is present and/or algal toxins have been detected. Swimming and wading are not recommended for: children, pregnant or nursing women, those with certain medical conditions and pets.

Red Flag - Elevated Recreational Public Health Advisory
DANGER - Avoid all contact with the water. Algal toxins at unsafe levels have been detected.

Clifton says that last year saw a relatively low amount of harmful advisories, but with so much rain this year, that number may rise.

Within the next month, ODH plans to roll out a feature that helpfully sends updated alerts directly to BeachGuard users' phones.

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