Milwaukee Health Department reminds beach-goers to watch for high E. coli levels

Signs posted at the beach indicate the levels
Posted at 6:53 PM, Jun 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-05 19:53:47-04

Despite chilling water temperatures, if residents are brave enough to take the plunge into Lake Michigan the Milwaukee Health Department wants to remind people to keep an eye on the E. coli levels.

"There's always going to be E. coli," said Angie Hagy, Director of Disease Control and Environmental Health. "It's natural in nature. It's always part there. When it becomes concerning is when those levels become super high. We measure them and let you know when it's unsafe."

At Bradford, McKinley and South Shore beaches, there will be signs explaining if it's safe or not to enter the water. Green means there is a low risk of illness. Yellow placards mean an increased risk of illness and they suggest washing hands before eating and showering after swimming. Red placards means swimming is not advised. For all of the levels, the health department suggests not ingesting the water.

Red days are pretty uncommon for Bradford Beach. The health department says there were no red days last year with only a handful of yellow days. However, for South Shore and McKinley, they were under a red advisory on Friday. Hagy advises though, it's not something to be alarmed about.

"It's not atypical in a given season that there will be a number of advisories posted," Hagy said. "We fully expect advisories based on the number of natural and man made phenomenons that result in beach closures. Every year we have a few. It's not uncommon."

It doesn't mean people can't enjoy the beaches or even being on the water during "red" days.

"The idea is to not drink the water or take the water in," Hagy said. "The idea is, you can kayak, you can boat. When you're in the water, it's very hard not to drink the water or get it in your mouth. You have to be cognizant of what you're doing in the water. Boating and kayaking are good. Things like snorkeling, probably not."

Hagy advises anyone who feels any of the symptoms of E. coli to visit their medical professional immediately.

For more information on the levels of E. coli in the water at the various beaches, visit the Wisconsin Beach Health website or the Milwaukee Health Department website.