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Orion beaches are safe for swimming



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July 23, 2014 - By Katie Winkler

Review Staff Writer

Beaches in the Lake Orion community are some of the best in the region and are safe to swim in and enjoy.

With more than 250 beaches in Oakland County, about 169 are tested and placed into the Oakland County Health Departments Beach Guard database each year.

Due to the expenses of testing each beach in Oakland County, only the 45 public beaches are tested every year, while semi-public beaches go through a rotation, being tested every four to five years.

According to the Chief of Environmental Health Special Programs, Mark Hansell, Oakland County's environmental programs do not have the resources of staff to sample all beaches every year.

The good news is that the popular beaches in the Orion area are clean and safe for people of all ages to swim.

The tests involve checking the levels of Escherichia Coli (E. Coli) and all were low enough to be considered safe from lake bacteria, Hansell said..

"All surface water will have E. Coli, but the numbers will determine if it is safe or not. The standard for E. Coli for full body contact is either a one-day geometric mean of 300 or a 30-day geometric mean of 130. Anything at or above those levels would initiate a closure (of the beach.)"

Shannon Briggs from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources also provided reassurance that local lakes are safe.

"The majority of beaches that are tested in Michigan are meeting water quality standard with low bacteria counts and the water is very clean and safe."

Although some Orion beaches have had high-bacteria counts in the past and have had to be shut down for a couple of days to treat the water, sources of the bacteria can be difficult to prevent.

In cases where E. Coli is present, "Incoming water from sewer pipes needs to be partially treated before it goes on, probably by screening or disinfecting, but it might still have something in it that may affect surface water quality. If you got a high geese population around the beach, [their waste] can sometimes affect beach water quality," Brad Wurefel from the DNR said.

Beach quality testing in 2014

Green's Park Village Beach has been tested every year for the past eleven years, passing with flying colors each time.

The E. Coli count has never been over 132 for daily mean or 57 for 30-day mean this year. Because of the up-keep of Green's Park, there have never been any closures at the beach due to unsafe water conditions.

"Lake Orion is fortunate with Green's Park that is one of those beaches that has met our water quality standards since 2003," Briggs said.

Lower Trout Bald Mountain Recreation Area has been tested for the past nine years and had two short term closures since 2006.

Bald Mountain had a closure in June 2008 for high bacteria levels due to storm runoff and in June 2010 for high bacterial levels from an unknown source. For 2014, the highest daily mean was 7 and a 30-day mean of 2, showing extremely low E. Coli levels.

Square Lake in Pleasant View subdivision on Kempster Street has only been tested in 2008 before this year, because it is a semi-public and is part of the rotation process. During their weekly testing this summer, the daily mean never extended past 30 and the 30-day mean of 18. Square Lake beach has never experienced any closures.

Beaches not tested in 2014

The popular Keatington beaches, located on Voorheis Lake off of Eaton Gate and Joslyn Court have not been tested since 2008. When the beach was last tested, the daily mean ranged from 3 to 57 and the 30-day mean 5 to 10.

Keatington Beach Association does their own treatment to the beach water to prevent swimmers itch and swimming ear, and other infections that can come from E. Coli counts in the water.

Lake Orion Heights and Orion Lake at Sunset Club have been tested in 2005 and 2007, never experiencing any closures. Bunny Run Country Club has been tested in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 and only experienced one short term closure in July 2006 for high bacteria levels.

Other Orion lakes, including Camp Agawam Boy Scout Camp and Heather Lakes are being tested but their results are not yet available for public access through the DNR Beach Guard program.

If semi-public or private beaches would like their beaches tested, kits are available for $6 through the Oakland County Health Division that can be picked up from their office at 27725 Greenfield Rd in Southfield. Oakland County will analyze the results when the bottles are brought in.

Out of the 250 beaches in Oakland County, only eleven have had closures this summer and none of those beaches are located in Lake Orion, according to Hansell.

So everyone can enjoy the clean and safe beaches the Lake Orion community has to offer.

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