On July 8, 2018 there were 23 beach closures throughout the State of Michigan, three of which were in the Southeastern Michigan region. These were Newburgh Lake in Wayne County, Fox Lake in Oakland County and the Lake St. Clair Metropark Beach in Macomb County. Thus far in 2018, the Lake St. Clair Metropark Beach has been closed for a total of 25 days due to high bacteria levels, according to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ). The earliest closure for Lake St. Clair Metropark Beach began on May 31, 2018 and lasted for three days. The most recent closure was announced on June 21, 2018 and it remains closed. According to the MDEQ, advisories or closures are most commonly issued due to elevated counts of E. coli in water samples collected from the shoreline of a water body. Health departments use the daily and 30-day geometric mean to determine if a beach closure or advisory should be issued; for E. coli that average is 300 milliliters. E. coli contaminations often occur from storm water, sanitary sewer overflow and wildlife (such as excrement left from Canadian Geese). Below are three charts showing the number of beach advisories/closures (formally referred to as actions) taken between 2012-2017 on beaches monitored along Lake Erie, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, Lake St. Clair and Lake Superior. It is important to note that not all beaches along the Great Lakes (and Lake St. Clair) are monitored. Local health departments and non-profits receive federal and state grant funding to monitor beaches. Monitoring must occur on beaches for which grant funding is provided for. The first chart below shows the percentage of monitored beaches across the state that had an advisory between 2013-2017. The highest percentage of actions occurred in 2015 at 25 percent; most recently the percentage of actions reported in 2017 was 18 percent. The 10-year average was 21.5 percent.
When looking at the sheer number of actions by lake, Lake Huron has regularly had the most number of advisory/closures since 2013, according to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. In 2017, 18 were reported, a decrease from the high of 29 in 2015.
The final chart below details the number of closures and advisories issued for Lake St. Clair Metropark, due to its regularity of closures compared to other monitored beaches in Southeastern Michigan. As noted earlier, Lake St. Clair Metropark often has a Canadian Geese problem, and it is regularly noted in media outlets that the excrement from these birds contribute to the high E. coli levels in the water samples. To deter the number of geese at the beach, the Metropark has enlisted the help of three dogs to chase away the geese.
As the St. Clair Beach Metropark takes steps to deter a contributor to its closures, the State also began using a rapid testing method to identify E. coli contamination faster. The method identifies and measures E. coli DNA and provides results on the same day it is collected; the more traditional method provides results up to three days later. Currently, according to the MDEQ, there are 12 labs in the state able to perform this method.