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posted: 5/30/2014 10:48 PM

Free phone app about Lake Michigan swim bans, conditions

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  • Visitors to Forest Park Beach in Lake Forest enjoy the sand and water. Beachgoers can get updates on conditions at local beaches trough the Lake County Health Department/Community Health Center's website.

       Visitors to Forest Park Beach in Lake Forest enjoy the sand and water. Beachgoers can get updates on conditions at local beaches trough the Lake County Health Department/Community Health Center's website.
    Paul Valade | Staff Photographer, June 2005

 
Lake County Health Department submission

This year, beachgoers have a new option for learning the latest news on swim bans at public beaches.

In addition to the Lake Michigan swim bans posted on the Lake County Health Department and Community Health Center website, beachgoers will be able to obtain information through an Android phone application created by the Great Lakes Commission.

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From Memorial Day to Labor Day, daily information is available about local Lake Michigan and inland lake swim bans through the Lake County Health Department/Community Health Center's website: health.lakecountyil.gov/Population/LMU/Pages/Beach-Advisory. aspx. The health department is sending information about Lake Michigan swim bans to the Great Lakes Commission, which has created a free phone application called myBeachCast. It's available at glin.net/beach cast for beaches in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. The app tells whether the beach is open, as well as temperature, humidity, visibility and wind speed at each beach.

"The health department's Lakes Management Unit monitors just over 100 Lake Michigan and inland lake beaches throughout the summer to ensure that the water is acceptable for swimming," said Mike Adam, senior biologist with the Lake County Health Department/Community Health Center. "When our water sampling tests indicate a high bacteria count, a swim ban is issued to keep people out of the water until the water quality improves. High bacteria counts may be caused by stormwater runoff, sewage overflow, nearby septic failure, or large quantities of droppings from geese or seagulls."

Throughout the summer, health department staff samples 12 Lake Michigan beaches four days per week. The Web page is updated daily by 10 a.m.

These beaches include: North Point Marina Beach, Winthrop Harbor; Illinois Beach State Park North Beach, Zion; Illinois Beach State Park South Beach, Zion; Illinois Beach State Park Resort Beach, Zion; Waukegan North Beach; Waukegan South Beach; Lake Bluff Dog Beach; Lake Bluff Sunrise Beach; Forest Park Beach, Lake Forest; Moraine Dog Beach, Highland Park; Park Avenue Beach, Highland Park; Central Avenue Beach, Highland Park.

The health department also monitors about 160 licensed beaches on inland lakes, including the Chain O' Lakes.

Test samples taken from lakes each summer exceed the water quality standards approximately 11 percent of the time. When bacteria levels in the water are high, the health department notifies the beach's manager and a sign is posted indicating a swim ban is in place. Since elevated bacteria levels may result in lake water after a rainfall that washes pollutants into the lake, the health department advises residents to avoid swimming after a large rain event.

Most swimming-related illnesses typically cause short-term health problems and usually are not reported to or treated by health providers. The most common illness is gastroenteritis, which causes diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pain that typically develop one to two days after exposure.

Other illnesses include ear, eye, nose and throat infections. Skin parasites, such as ringworm and schistosomiasis (swimmers itch), can be transmitted in areas of water degradation. Although there are many serious illnesses transmitted through water, swimmers are rarely exposed to these more serious diseases in the United States.

For information, call Lake County Health Department's Environmental Services, at (847) 377-8030.

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