LAKE COUNTY, OH (WOIO) - This week many pools and area beaches will be opening. While a day in the water can be fun, bacteria can quickly become a problem and cause recreation water illnesses like E. coli.
Popular beaches monitor bacteria levels using data from daily water samples. It helps managers know if advisory should go up warning swimmers of unsafe conditions. The problem is lab results usually aren't available until the next day and water conditions can change, meaning inaccurate information potentially putting people at risk of illness.
Headlands Beach State Park and Fairport Harbor Beach in Lake County and six other Lake Erie beaches are using the Ohio Nowcast system.
Scientists developed a computer program that estimates E. coli levels based on environmental factors and observances.
Think of it like a weather forecast. Workers measure and enter rainfall totals, wind speed and direction, wave height, presence of birds and other variable into software.
A formula using lake-specific historical data indicates if an advisory should be issued. Ohio Nowcast results take about an hour. Officials compare the computer results to lab results and say it has an accuracy rate of at least 90 percent.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following tips to reduce the change of getting a recreations water illness.
- Avoid swallowing pool or lake water.
- Avoid lake swimming 24 to 28 hours after heavy rainfall. That’s when bacteria levels are typically elevated because of surface runoff or sewage-treatment plant overflows.
- Make time to use a bathroom facility & properly wash hands before entering the water.