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NEWS: Back to the beach, Memorial Day weekend means daily water tests resume to keep beachgoers safe

Local beaches will be active this summer, and not just with local swimmers.

Starting Memorial Day weekend, Sewer District water-quality investigators will be testing beach water every day to keep you informed if you’re planning a day by the lake.

This week, the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District resumed daily beach testing at Edgewater, Villa Angela and Euclid Beaches to determine water quality and bacteria levels throughout the summer. Daily testing will continue through September 6, 2014.

What affects water quality at local beaches

Many variables can impact the water quality of the beaches, including the presence of waterfowl at the beach, the influence of Lake Erie currents, the fate of pollutants, like raw sewage, discharged into local water bodies, and stormwater run-off, which can carry motor oil, garbage and other pollutants into local water bodies, too.

All of these factors affect bacteria levels in the water at the beach, and daily testing will help keep visitors informed, especially if conditions for higher bacteria levels are present.

Keeping you informed

A Nowcast prediction of water quality will notify beachgoers of the anticipated water quality, either good (bacteria levels are low) or poor (higher bacteria levels may be expected due to conditions like those mentioned above).

The predictions will be provided each morning by 9:30 a.m., seven days a week. The latest beach water quality information can be found directly on neorsd.org or by following the Sewer District’s official beach-report Twitter account @NEORSDbeaches for morning predictions every day.

Nowcast prediction signage also will be posted at the entrance of Edgewater and Villa Angela Beaches. Beach users who are consulting the Nowcast should be aware that water quality conditions can deteriorate rapidly as a result of storm conditions. The Nowcast program does not account for water quality changes which happen after the morning Nowcast is issued.

“The Sewer District is one of the few agencies in the nation that monitors local water quality on a daily basis,” stated Mark Citriglia, Sewer District Manager of Analytical Services. “Over the years, we’ve significantly enhanced our research at two local beaches (Euclid and Villa Angela) which, historically, have been prone to high bacteria levels, exceeding EPA standards.”

Beach testing and how it began

Last year, the Sewer District completed all the work associated with a two-year grant from the US EPA through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). The grant funding allowed the Sewer District to:

  • enhance its research efforts on the effectiveness of rapid analytical methods for measuring recreational water quality; and
  • determine the specific factors that contributed to water quality conditions at these beaches.

Examples of specific research efforts include the refinement of source tracking capabilities, which will help to pin-point specific sources of bacteria, and the installation of velocity meters at the mouth of Euclid Creek to track the movement of the Euclid Creek discharge plume when it reaches Lake Erie currents.

Additionally, research efforts and funding from two GLRI grants from 2010 through 2012 have enabled the Sewer District to continue to develop and refine its method for determining the water quality at Edgewater, Villa Angela, and Euclid Beaches. The predictive models over the past two years have utilized a mixture of environmental variables coupled with data generated from a rapid microbial method. These models were able to predict the water quality with an accuracy of greater than 80%.

For the 2014 beach season, after thorough statistical analysis and additional research performed last year, the Nowcast water quality determination will be based solely on the results from a rapid microbial method.  The laboratory staff anticipates the accuracy of this new method to be as good if not better than the predictive models used in 2011, 2012 and 2013. The new rapid method allows results to be available in approximately three to four hours compared to 24 hours using conventional methods.

Prior to the adoption of the Nowcast System at Edgewater Beach and Villa Angela Beach, the predictions were based upon Sewer District laboratory results from beach water samples collected and tested the previous day. The then-unavoidable 24-hour delay meant that bacteria levels could have increased or decreased substantially during that period.

The Nowcast System is supported by the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, Cleveland Lakefront State Park, Cleveland Metroparks, Cleveland Department of Public Health, Cuyahoga County Board of Health, Ohio Department of Health, and United States Geological Survey, who has been a major partner in developing the methodology for the Nowcast.

Open for Public Comment: NEORSD’s Beach Monitoring Plan

The Sewer District’s beach monitoring plan for the 2014 recreation season is open for public comment. Hard copies may be requested by calling the Sewer District’s Customer Service Department at 216-881-8247. Comments may be sent to Analytical Services, NEORSD, 4747 E. 49th Street, Cuyahoga Heights, OH 44125 or via e-mail at askus@neorsd.org.

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