November 20, 2014

Environmental officials not sure what's behind E. Coli at Singing Bridge

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WHITNEY TOWNSHIP - The Singing Bridge Public Access on Lake Huron has tested above the Department of Environmental Quality's (DEQ) standards for E. Coli levels over a span of 30 days in every test sample since July 8, but officials are unsure as to why.

“We're going to have some good, qualified people looking at this,” said Central Michigan District Health Department Environmental Officer Mark Janeczko. “This year was one of those years where every week, we had a closure (contamination advisory) at the Singing Bridge. We've never had that before.”

Over 30 days, if the average E. Coli count is 130 E. Coli per 100 milliliters of water, the beach where the sample is extracted from is put under a contamination advisory by the DEQ, meaning it's not safe for body contact. Singing Bridge's last test of the beach season, taken Sept. 9, yielded 176.05 E. Coli per 100 ml. and, despite being much lower than the highest test yield of 325.67 E. Coli per 100 ml. (Aug. 16), was slightly higher than a test sample taken Sept. 2 (173.14 E. Coli per 100 ml.).

Janeczko says on a day this November, the exact date still to be decided, DEQ, health department and township officials are going to put their heads together and try to figure out why the tests keep showing high amounts of bacteria, and what can be done to curb the trend.

Shannon Briggs, a DEQ Water Toxicologist says that by looking at the test results, one can draw the conclusion that somewhere near the access, there is a source of contamination.

“What we want to do is find out why this is happening, where is it coming from?” Briggs said. “This is not usual.”

According to Briggs, an investigation of the Singing Bridge Public Access was performed in 2007 with federal grant funds to pinpoint potential sources of contamination and also do sanitary work. She, however, says she is still not certain why high volumes of E. Coli appeared in Lake Huron at the Singing Bridge Public Access all summer.

However, she says that one contributing factor to the increase in bacteria levels could be turbidity, or water being “stirred up,” caused by the completion of the Whitney Drain renovation, a project which was wrapped up last year.

“Sometimes higher turbidity can lead to higher bacteria,” she said.

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