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Health Department Tracks Bacteria Levels, Algae Blooms at Public Beaches

Lake Altoona Beach
Lake Altoona Beach

Summer is right around the corner, and that means so is beach going season! Be sure you know where to find up-to-date beach closing information before the season officially kicks off. E-notifications are one of the ways you can get easy, fast, and reliable updates to keep you and your family safe throughout the summer.

In 2017, there were 20 beach closings in Eau Claire County. Although closings may change your beach day plans, they are for the safety of all beachgoers. High levels of bacteria in the water can make you and your family sick. This is why our Environmental Health Lab has already begun checking the level of bacteria at area beaches starting this week. Beaches include: Riverview Park, Big Falls, Half Moon Lake, Lake Altoona, Lake Eau Claire, and Coon Fork Beach and Campground. 

Bacteria is not the only thing that is unsafe in the water. Harmful algae blooms can happen as well, and the Environmental Health Lab is also checking for them this beach season. Algae blooms can come in a variety of colors such as blue, green, white, red, or brown. Often the algae looks like thick green paint floating on the water, and it can give off a bad smell. Algae blooms will typically appear between July and September, and even more so with hot temperatures and a lot of rain.

Harmful algae blooms can be toxic, especially to children and pets. Contact with algae can cause skin rashes and/or ear, nose, and throat irritation. Swallowing small amounts of algae can cause headache, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. If you see an algae bloom, stay out of the water and contact the Eau Claire City-County Health Department at (715) 839-4718. Beaches will have signs (like the one shown with this article) displayed if water is potentially unsafe because of an algae bloom.

For the latest beach safety news and tips:

  • Sign up for e-notifications by visiting the City of Eau Claire’s website (www.ci.eau-claire.wi.us), then clicking on “Sign up for e-notifications” and then selecting “beach closings.”
  • Like the Eau Claire City-County Health Department on Facebook.
  • Follow us on twitter @echealthdept.
  • Check out our website at echealthdepartment.org.
  • Look for our signs displayed at beaches.
  • Have questions about beach safety in Eau Claire County? Call us at (715) 839-4718.

This was made by

Gina Schemenauer  author

Gina Schemenauer is a Community Health Educator at the Eau Claire City-County Health Department. When not at work, she keeps busy with her two young kiddos!