Kim Palmer | 11/14/07 @ 6:44pm
The surface temperature of Lake Erie has hit a temperate 70 degrees recently-swim-able for some but will you take the plunge?Well, if you do decide to swim in our fair lake this summer you can visit a number of sites (or call) that offer up-to-the-hour information about water conditions. Between Memorial and Labor Day, Ohio beaches are monitored and tested in some cases daily for water conditions, temperature and quality, and made available to the public.And the news has been relatively good as of late. Of the 52 Lake Erie beaches were water quality was monitored in 2006, 42 beaches (81 percent) had at least one swimming advisory but very few instances lasting more than three days. All in all beach advisories constituting only 12 percent of the swimming season last year.Mathematical modeling of water quality is now being used to develop a predictive system for beach advisories at five Lake Erie beaches. This year, as it was last year, the nowcast system is up and running for Huntington Reservation-look for similar programs in 2008 and for Edgewater and Villa Angela.In other Lake news, the International Joint Commission published its "2007 State of the Great Lakes" and while some of the information was encouraging other parts not so much. The good news is that in the past 30 years there has been a reduction in the levels of toxic chemicals in the air, water, flora, fauna and sediment, and the lake continues to be a good source for treated drinking water.However there are new worries like new chemicals of concern, like polybrominated diphenyl ethers (flame retardants) and various pharmaceutical and personal care products that are being found more frequently and the decline in some contaminant levels has not eliminated the need for fish consumption advisories.Also, non-native species continue to invade Lake Erie and affect the food web. Declines in the duration and extent of ice cover and declines in lake levels due to evaporation during the winter are expected to continue.There has also been research that questions whether E. coli levels are higher on our beaches than previously thought. It seems that wildlife waste may be more of a contributing factor in bacterial contamination. E. coli it seems comes from several sources (not just urban pollution of the water) and may survive and replicate in sand, sediment, soils and algae in the water. This could increase the bacteria counts on windy days when the sediment and algae are churned up. For more beach information go here to the GCBL Lake Erie beaches page.