Going to the beach during the summer is something everyone looks forward to. Laying in the sand, soaking up some rays, watching the waves splash upon the shore and splashing around in the water are just a few of the things American’s enjoy about the local beach.
However, over the past several years many beaches have been shut down due to lack of sanitation and dangerous chemicals and bacteria in the water. Residents of the Cedar Valley in Iowa should be aware that there have also been lakes and riverfronts in Iowa shut down for the same reasons.
According to the Iowa Great Lakes Water Safety Council, most Iowa lakes meet the mark and if they don’t, the DNR or Department of Natural Resources in Iowa is hot on the trail to ensure public safety. In fact, routine water quality monitoring is conducted in all of the State Park beaches and many local beaches in Iowa.
The latest beach results for Iowa’s beaches can be found at the Iowa Water Web map. The results for mid July show that all lakes in Iowa are currently ‘ok for swimming’. The scale is color coded and includes Marble Beach, McIntosh Woods Beach, George Wyth Beach, Backbone Beach, Black Hawk Beach, Brushy Creek Beach, Pine Lake south Beach, Union Grove Beach, Big Creek Beach, Rock Creek Beach and Emerson Bay Beach are all considered safe for swimming.
Also, according to the DNR website for Iowa’s beaches, there are currently no beaches in danger for 2007. However, that has certainly not always been the case!
In June of 2004, nearly half of Iowa’s beaches were in danger. It was during this time that the construction of Cedar Falls Aquatic Center began. It was also during this time that six state park beaches posted swimming advisories in the Des Moines area.
The Iowa Lakes that were in the most trouble included Backbone, Beed’s Lake, Lake Darling, Rock Creek and Union Grove. These beaches were listed as some of the highest beaches in regards to vulnerability and have a history of high bacteria.
In 2004, swimming advisories were also posted and quickly removed at George Wyth in Black Hawk County, Prarie Rose in Shelby county and Lake of Three Fires in Taylor County, according to an archived DNR report.
The reason for such high bacteria in 2004 was due to a great amount of rainfall. According to Jessie Rolph, an information specialist with the DNR, the bacteria levels tend to rise after a rainfall. (http://www.iowadnr.com/news/eco/04june04eco.pdf)
The highest level of bacteria was recorded at Lake MacBride and Lake Wapello in Johnson and Davis County.
So what exactly do high levels of bacteria mean for swimmers? Many swim advisories do not necessarily mean the water is unsafe to swim in. Indeed, the beaches will often remain opened for swimmers who are at their own risk in regards to diseases or infections.
Anyone with an open cut or wound should certainly not consider swimming in a public beach. Park visitors are instead encouraged to play volleyball and Frisbee.
In the summer of 2007, there have been three beaches posted for high bacteria levels according to Radio Iowa.
The beaches include Clear Lake, Lake Darling and Rock Creek Lake State Park. The advisories are typically meant as a warning to swimmers and recreation managers alike. Those in charge of the park are advised to take the necessary steps in order to ensure the parks and beaches stay open for residents to enjoy.
It is also important to remember that rainy weather is not the sole proprietor when it comes to high levels of bacteria in Iowa’s beaches. Indeed, the rain may actually help reduce bacteria in some beaches, according to Radio Iowa. It is always advised that swimmers and park users take proper precautions when swimming. Baby’s diapers should be waterproof, and campers should maintain proper sanitation.
Also, when it comes to swimming in public beaches, be sure to not swallow the water! This way, bacteria in the water will be less likely to harm swimmers.