A water quality notice has been posted on the north shore of Devil’s Lake as of Friday, July 14th, 2017. This means the most recent water test near the north shore beach has shown a higher than acceptible level of E.Coli.
If you are concerned about E. Coli, it’s good to know how the testing actually works. When a water sample is taken from the various parts of the lake, it takes a couple days to send in the sample to a lab and get the results back. This means that the test result that close the beach was actually from 2 or 3 days ago. By the time the signs go up, the numbers will have changed. It could be higher, lower or the same. This is why retesting takes place right away. Because of that 2-3 day lag between sampling and getting the report, the notice tells you more about how the lake was than is. Something to keep in mind.
Why isn’t this reported online? So I got this question on social media and it’s a good question. It certainly sucks if you’ve driven 1 hour, 3 hours or more to swim only to find signs up when you get there! So how do you get this info online? Well, it depends on where you look. As of this morning, (7:32 am, Sat. July 15th) the “official” current conditions page, while mentioning swimmer’s itch, has no notice of the current water quality advisory. We are also on “official” DNR mailing list for “Devil’s Lake State Park” information, but nothing has been received here either. However, the Wisconsin Beach Health website does show the advisory. Of course, I post the information here and on our social media channels as fast as I get it from actually seeing the signs posted, but that’s not the best system either. Generally, I agree that the current system of reporting to the public could be better.
What is E. Coli?
E. coli is a common form of coliform bacteria that is found in the large intestines of humans and other warm-blooded animals. It is used as an indicator organism since it is easily cultured, and if present in elevated amounts, indicates that fecal matter is present in the water. If fecal matter is in the water, then other disease-causing bacteria may also be present..
E. Coli is not the same as “Swimmer’s Itch”.
How long will it take to clean the lake?
You can not “clean” a natural lake in the way that you might a swimming pool. You simply must wait for levels to go down in the affected area.
Why is there an advisory for one side of the lake and not the other?
Sometimes there will be an advisory for only one side or section of a lake or beach area. This is because the body of water is large enough that it is possible to have one end with elevated bacteria levels and the other end to be considered under safe levels with little threat of being contaminated. This is why you will see swimming, boating and other activities going on as usual in other areas of the lake.
- Click here to learn more about e coli and beach monitoring from the Wisconsin DNR.
- A good E. Coli overview – Purdue U.
- Thinking differently about E-coli – from the national park service
- Symptoms of E. Coli – Mayo Clinic
***Obligatory Disclaimer: This website is NOT associated with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The views expressed in this blog are mine and do not represent the views of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.