From Memorial Day through September, Environmental Health staff monitor the results of water samples from public beaches in Livingston County.  The water samples are analyzed for E. Coli bacteria levels. The Michigan Public Health Code sets limits for levels of bacteria at public bathing beaches to protect public health and to prevent the spread of disease. If the levels detected during monitoring are above these limits, the risk of illness increases. Beaches are closed if they are unsafe to public health.

Public Beach Testing Results

Information for Michigan beaches including water quality sampling results and beach advisories and closures.

FAQs

What is E. coli?

E. coli bacteria live in the digestive systems of humans and other warm blooded animals. Therefore, they are found in sewage and other wastewater. Most strains are not dangerous, but they can indicate the presence of other disease-causing bacteria.

What are the risks associated with bacteria in the water?

Swimming in unsafe water may result in minor illnesses such as sore throats or diarrhea. It may also result in more serious illnesses that can last a longer period of time. Children, the elderly and persons with weakened immune systems are at greater risk for illness when they come into contact with contaminated water.​

How are beaches sampled?

Beaches are sampled a minimum of five times (or “events”) per month. Each sampling “event” consists of three samples taken at representative locations within the bathing beach area. The water samples are collected one foot below the surface in 3-6 feet of water. The samples are then taken to a contracted certified laboratory to be analyzed for E. coli bacteria. ​

When will the beach re-open?

The Livingston County Environmental Health Division will continue monitoring the beach water quality and will permit a beach to re-open for swimming when bacteria levels fall back to acceptable levels. Check with the park or beach authority as recreational activities other than swimming are usually still available.​

How do the bacteria get in the water?

There are a variety of sources that contribute bacteria to our surface waters. These include:
  • Illicit waste connections to storm sewers or roadside ditches
  • Malfunctioning septic systems
  • Combined and sanitary sewer overflows
  • Storm (rain) runoff
  • Wild and domestic animal waste (especially goose droppings)
  • Agricultural runoff

How do I know if it is safe to swim?

You are the best person to decide when and if it is safe to swim at a particular location. Our changing weather means that swimming conditions can vary throughout the day and from day to day. It is a good idea to avoid swimming in lakes and rivers for 48 hours following a heavy rain. Surface runoff from storm sewer systems can carry high levels of pollution such as residue from vehicle exhaust, fertilizer, pesticides, oil, and waste from urban pets and rural barnyards into the water. Overflowing storm systems can also carry untreated sewage into rivers and lakes. Here are a few recommendations for deciding when and where to swim:

  • Check the weather! Don’t swim for two days after heavy rains.
  • Watch for signs of water pollution such as discolored water, fast flowing and strong smelling drains and/or street litter floating in water.
  • Avoid swimming next to drain openings or outlets.
  • Check for pollution warning notices and/or beach closing signs.
  • Swim only in designated swim areas.

What is swimmer's itch?

Swimmer’s itch is a natural phenomenon that occurs in many water bodies in Michigan. It is a temporary skin irritation caused by an invisible parasite found in lakes and ponds. The skin irritation appears as small itchy welts resembling a rash or mosquito bites.

The welts are caused by a tiny parasitic organism which normally lives in the blood of waterfowl. The parasite’s eggs are passed out of the bird and develop into larvae that seek out snails. Once they mature, they enter the water again to seek out birds, but sometimes select a human by mistake. Humans are not suitable hosts for the parasite, so it dies and is dissolved. Our body reacts to the intrusion by treating the organism as a mild allergy and produces histamines that can cause a red itchy welt. These itchy bumps are no more serious than an insect bite and can be treated with anti-itch creams.

Incidences of swimmer’s itch are most common in late June and mid-July, especially after heavy winds. Only 30% to 40% of the population is sensitive to swimmer’s itch, and very few of those will ever develop welts. Since swimmer’s itch can be reintroduced to the water through goose droppings, please do not feed or attract geese while near lakes or ponds!

Swimmer’s itch is:

  • Not caused by poor water quality
  • Not contagious
  • Not dangerous to humans

To reduce the chance of getting swimmer’s itch:

  • Apply waterproof sunscreen or baby oil to help prevent swimmer’s itch organisms from entering the skin.
  • Thoroughly and briskly towel-off or shower as soon as you leave the water to help prevent swimmer’s itch organisms from entering the skin.
  • Change out of your wet bathing suit as soon as possible after exiting the water.
  • Keep anti-itch creams handy if your family is prone to allergies or if welts occur.​

More Information can be found on the CDC website.

Last Modified February 20, 2024

Environmental Health
Livingston County Health Department Logo
Matt Bolang

Matt Bolang
Health Officer

Q

Phone

(517) 546-9858

Hours

Monday – Friday
8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Closed County Holidays

Location

2300 E Grand River Ave
Suite 102
Howell, MI 48843

Fax

(517) 546-9853
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