Why is the beach closed?
The beach is probably closed because monitoring conducted by the
Illinois Department of Public Health or its agents determined that bacteria
levels exceed those established in the Swimming Pool and Bathing Beach Code
(235 colony forming units [cfu] of E. coli per 100 milliliters of water
is the level at which closing is required). The beach may be closed because the
operator voluntarily closed the beach following a heavy rainfall or known
incident that may have contaminated the water.
What is E. coli?
Escherichia 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 harmful, but some are, and
they can indicate the presence of other disease-causing bacteria.
Why are beaches monitored by the Illinois Department of
To protect the publics health, the Department requires
that each of the licensed public beaches in Illinois be sampled every two
weeks. Unless the local health department collects the samples, the beach
operator is required to sample the beach water in the shallow and deep areas
every two weeks. Samples are sent to a Department laboratory for analysis. If
the results exceed the Departments limits, the risk of illness increases
and the beach is required to be closed.
When will the beach re-open?
Factors such as natural die-off, wind and wave action, and
ultraviolet light from the sun will help to reduce the level of bacteria. The
length of time this takes is unpredictable; however, it is usually less than 24
The water needs to be resampled and the samples from both the shallow and
deep areas must be below 235 cfu of E. coli/100 ml. before the beach will be
allowed to re-open. It takes 24 hours after receipt of the samples to determine
the bacteria levels.
How do the bacteria get in the water?
There are a variety of sources that contribute bacteria to
- Illegal sewer connections to storm sewers or roadside ditches, or direct
discharges to the lake
- Malfunctioning sewage disposal systems
- Combined and sanitary sewer overflows
- Storm runoff following a rain
- Wild and domestic animal waste
- Agricultural runoff
- Bather defecation
What type of illness can you get from swimming in
Gastroenteritis type illness is the most common, with symptoms
such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, headache and low grade
fever. Skin rashes and earaches also may be experienced.
Is it necessary to report any illness that might be
associated with the use of the beach?
Yes, the beach manager should be notified if you become sick
after swimming at the beach. Managers are required to report illnesses to the
Illinois Department of Public Health for investigation. Early notification can
prevent hundreds of additional people from becoming ill.
How do I know if the beach water is safe?
No one can guarantee the quality of natural bodies of water. The
minimal sampling that the Department conducts indicates the water quality only
on the particular day the sample was collected and at that specific location.
Those sample results are not usually known until two days after the sample was
collected. The Department recommends not entering the water if it is very murky
or turbid, if it has an odor or if there has been a heavy rainfall within the
past 24 hours. Beach patrons should not drink the water and should not enter
the water if they have any open sores or skin infections, or are experiencing
What can I do to assure the best water quality at the
While some contamination may occur by nature and cannot be
controlled, there are several things that beach patrons can do to assure the
best water quality:
- Be sure infants wear tight fitting rubber or plastic pants if they enter
the beach water.
- Do not encourage water fowl by feeding ducks or geese.
- Encourage children to use the toilets frequently.
Is there a way I can determine if the beach is closed
without going there?
You may wish to call the facility before you go, or you can
check on the Bathing Beaches section on the
Departments Web site.