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Is It Safe to Swim? Health Department Keeps an Eye on Water Safety

BIG FALLS COUNTY PARK
BIG FALLS COUNTY PARK

The Eau Claire City-County Health Department monitors seven local beaches for bacteria and harmful algae blooms throughout the summer, ending Labor Day weekend. Beaches include Riverview Park, Big Falls, Half Moon Lake, Lake Altoona, Lake Eau Claire, Coon Fork Beach, and Coon Fork Campground. A sign will be placed on the beach if beaches are closed or have an advisory. The health department will also post up-to-date information on Facebook (facebook.com/eauclairehealth) and Twitter (@echealthdept). “Although a beach closure or a water quality advisory may ruin your plans, it’s for the safety of everyone in our community, especially children, the elderly and pets,” says Savannah Bergman, a chemist-microbiologist with the health department. Curious about the difference between a beach closing and advisory? Read more below. 

BEACH CLOSINGS

  • How often? 36 days (2018)
  • What causes them? Beaches are closed when testing shows high levels of bacteria.  
  • Why would I avoid the water? High levels of bacteria in the water can make you and your family sick. Swallowing water can cause diarrhea, nausea, fever, and stomach pain.
  • Can I still use the beach? No. The beach is closed for ALL water activities.
  • When will the beach be “safe” again? Beach will open when bacteria levels return to acceptable levels.

WATER QUALITY ADVISORIES

  • What is an algae bloom? Blooms can look like thick green paint floating on the water (or they can be other colors like blue, green, white, red, or brown). They can be smelly, and they usually appear July-September (especially when it’s hot and rainy).
  • How often does it happen? 91 days (2018)
  • What causes a closing or advisory? Advisories are posted when harmful algae blooms are seen in the water.  
  • Why should I avoid the water? Harmful algae blooms can be toxic, especially to children and pets. Touching algae can cause skin rash and/or ear, nose, and throat irritation. Swallowing small amounts of algae can cause headache, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Can I still use the beach? Maybe. Don’t boat, swim, touch, or swallow the water near the algae bloom. Try to find an area of the beach where there are no algae.
  • When will the beach be “safe” again? Advisory will be taken down once harmful algae levels return to acceptable levels.

Source: Eau Claire City-County Health Department