Over the summer, from June 10 to Aug. 31, the Ottawa County Health Department tested seven beaches along the Lake Erie shore. Six are in Ottawa County, although the department’s employees also handle testing for Kelleys Island, which is in Erie County.
The department issued 17 beach advisories at Ottawa County beaches last summer, warning swimmers to stay away from a given beach because of high bacteria counts. Nine of those advisories were for Port Clinton’s beach.
A high bacteria count, indicating the water is contaminated, prompts the beach advisories. The state health department says when an advisory is issued, children, the elderly, ill people and people who have weak immune systems should stay out of the water.
Managers of all the Ottawa County public beaches cooperate with the health department by posting signs when swimming advisories are issued, said Nancy Osborn, Ottawa County’s health commissioner.
While nine advisories were issued for Port Clinton’s beach this year, 10 were issued during summer 2012. Port Clinton safety and service director Tracy Colston believes the city is making progress in improving its sewer system.
The city has been working to deal with its sewer issues by separating the pipes that carry sewage from the ones that carry storm water, Colston said.
“We are in the works of doing a master study with our city on our sewer systems, seeing what else we need to do,” Colston said.
Historically, the Port Clinton and Camp Perry beaches have had the worst results, Osborn said.
Camp Perry did much better this year with only two advisories, compared to six in 2012.
Number of beach advisory days in 2013 at beaches tested by Ottawa County’s health department
Camp Perry: 2
Catawba Island State Park: 2
East Harbor State Park: 1
Kelleys Island State Park: 2
Lakeside Beach: 1
Port Clinton: 9
South Bass Island State Park: 2
(Source: Ohio Beach Guard site. Kelleys Island is in Erie County, but Ottawa County officials handle the beach sampling)