September 30, 2014

Drainage board, Whitney Township ready to work on E. Coli issue

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WHITNEY TOWNSHIP — During the whole summer testing period, the Singing Bridge Public Access in Whitney Township was under a Department of Environmental Quality Contamination Advisory for high levels of E. Coli, and the Whitney Intercounty Drainage Board and Whitney Township Board are prepared to address the problem.

At the drainage board meeting Oct. 29, Drain Commissioner Larry Davis said he, along with Iosco County Drain Commissioner Gary Adams and Ogemaw County Drain Commissioner Michael DeMatio agreed to pitch in.

“Anything that we can do to help out, we will,” Davis said. “There’s going to be a meeting on the eleventh of November and we’re in support of finding the source.”

Fran Semenick, Supervisor for Whitney Township, said one test, funded by the Whitney Township Board, was taken from within the drain near Noble Road this summer, and that sample did show the presence of E. Coli.

“The E. Coli level at the Noble Road bridge… was a lot higher than it was at the lake,” he said.

However, the $18 test sample in the drain, as well as others taken from the lake, didn’t discern the type of E. Coli present.

“Nobody knows whether it’s animal, human or what type of E. Coli it is,” Davis added. “There’s just a lot of research that has to be done.”

In the big picture, Semenick said the issue might not be solely in Whitney Township.

“We may have a county problem,” he said. “If we’re trying to attract tourists here, it’s the wrong type of publicity.”

Three other beaches in Arenac County were under periodic advisories last summer.

Semenick also said that the work on the drain to improve flow and cut down on erosion isn’t likely to be causing the E. Coli to show up.

“E. Coli was probably there long before any work was done on the drain,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anything different with what’s coming down the drain, because they were just concerned about water flow, not what’s in the water. So how far upstream do you have to go to find out where this is coming from.

“Sooner or later you’re going to go far enough upstream to find there’s no E. Coli.”

A meeting with drainage board members, township board members, a Central Michigan District Health Department Environmental Officer and DEQ representatives is being held Nov. 11. For more information, call the drain commission at 989-846-2011.

The health department monitors the Singing Bridge Public Access for E. Coli from June 8 to Aug. 16.

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