Health Department Urges Lake County Residents to Swim Safely
Memorial Day traditionally marks the unofficial start of summer. Before you head out to your favorite lake or beach, make sure to check and see if it is open for swimming.
The Lake County Health Department and Community Health Center monitors lake water for bacteria in over 100 Lake Michigan and inland lake beaches to ensure that the water is acceptable for swimming. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, beach closure information can be found on the health department's Beach Advisory web page, which is updated daily by 10 a.m. at http://www.lakecountyil.gov/2385/Beach-Advisory.
"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," said Mike Adam, senior biologist with the Lake County Health Department. "High bacteria counts may be caused by storm water runoff, sewage overflow, nearby septic failure, or large quantities of droppings from geese or seagulls."
Throughout the summer, the health department samples 10 beaches along Lake Michigan four days per week:
• 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
• Waukegan South Beach Waukegan
• Lake Bluff Sunrise Beach Lake Bluff
• Forest Park Beach Lake Forest
• Park Avenue Beach Highland Park
• Rosewood Beach Highland Park
The Health Department also samples Moraine Dog Beach in Highland Park and Lake Bluff Dog Beach once a week.
Test samples taken from Lake County beaches indicate bacteria levels exceeding water quality standards approximately 10 percent of the time. When bacteria levels are high, the health department notifies the beach's manager and signs are posted indicating a swim ban is in place. Water samples are taken daily until the bacteria levels fall below the standard.
Follow these tips to avoid hazards when swimming in our lakes this summer:
• Before heading to your favorite lake, check if the beach is open. If a swim ban is in place, do not swim in the lake.
• Avoid swimming in lakes after a large rain event, since rainfall can wash pollutants into lakes resulting in elevated bacteria levels.
• On Lake Michigan, don't swim during times of heavy surf (i.e., high waves), which can overpower even the strongest swimmer.
• On inland lakes, occasional harmful algae blooms may occur. Avoid areas where the water has a green or blue-green appearance. Report any algae blooms to the Health Department.
While some serious illnesses can be transmitted through water, swimmers are rarely exposed to them in the United States. Most swimming-related illnesses 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 develops one to two days after exposure. Other illnesses include ear, eye, nose and throat infections. Skin parasites such as schistosomiasis (swimmers itch) can be transmitted in some inland lakes.
For more information on beach monitoring, please call Lake County Health Department's Environmental Services at: (847) 377-8020.