Capital Clicks

State beach bacteria levels are low ahead of holiday weekend

By: - September 2, 2022 3:50 pm

Emerson Bay Beach on West Okoboji Lake is among state beaches with current swimming warnings. (Photo by Perry Beeman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

There are currently nine state beaches where the environmental regulators caution against swimming ahead of the Labor Day weekend, but many of them have relatively low bacteria levels, according to a recent Iowa Department of Natural Resources report.

The state monitors bacteria and toxins at its beaches with weekly tests. Those results can change significantly over the course of days depending on weather conditions.

Heavy rainfalls can increase the amount of E. coli bacteria that flow into lakes. Warm, calm conditions can foster blue-green algae blooms and their toxins.

Six of the beaches with swim warnings for bacteria now have relatively low concentrations of the microorganisms but have averaged an unhealthy amount over the past five weeks. They include:

— Backbone Beach in Delaware County
— Big Creek Beach in Polk County
— Brushy Creek Beach in Webster County
— Lake Darling Beach in Washington County
— Nine Eagles Beach in Decatur County
— Union Grove Beach in Tama County

Two of the beaches have high bacteria counts. Emerson Bay Beach in Dickinson County had about double the amount of bacteria that can trigger a swim warning when its water was tested on Wednesday. Pine Lake South Beach in Hardin County also tested higher than the safe threshold.

Green Valley Beach in Union County was the only one with a swim warning for toxins.

The bacteria and toxins have the potential to cause skin irritations, disease and infections among those who come into contact.

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Jared Strong
Jared Strong

Senior reporter Jared Strong has written about Iowans and the important issues that affect them for more than 15 years, previously for the Carroll Times Herald and the Des Moines Register.