MILWAUKEE – The City of Milwaukee Health Department (MHD) kicked off its beach season this week by updating beachgoers to the conditions of Milwaukee’s beach water.
For now, while Lake Michigan is still cold, swimmers don't have to worry about high levels of bacteria.
"Water quality has improved at our public beaches over the last ten years very markedly," said Paul Biedrzycki from the Milwaukee Health Department.
Biedrzycki says the city now tests the water at Milwaukee County beaches six times a week. The results of those tests seem to indicate conditions have improved over the years.
"Here at Bradford, we typically see between 7 and 15 percent postings for yellow or red each year, so it isn`t perfect - we have a little ways to go yet, but that compares to maybe 20 years ago, where postings at Bradford would exceed 30 to 40 percent of the beach open dates," said Biedrzycki.
The health department believes the biggest reason for that is the deep tunnel which opened 20 years ago. In the past, the biggest cause of lake contamination was sewage overflows. With those happening less often, officials now focus on storm water run-off.
In addition to the deep tunnel, city officials say rain gardens have also made a huge difference. In the past, run-off water would rush down hard surfaces like the sidewalk and parking lots and into the lake. Now rain gardens absorb some of that water.
Water at Milwaukee’s Bradford, McKinley, and South Shore beaches is tested from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Water samples are analyzed by both the City of Milwaukee Health Department Public Health Laboratory and Zilber School of Public Health Laboratory for a variety of factors, including microbial contaminants that may indicate potential health risks. Public advisories are posted within 24 hours of collection.
The MHD’s public notification system is guided by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and uses the colors green, yellow, and red to guide the public to current water quality conditions.
In addition to signs posted at each of the city’s three Lake Michigan beaches, residents and visitors can find the beach water advisories at http://www.milwaukee.gov/health and http://www.wibeaches.us/.