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Environment & Climate Change

New technology could improve beach water-quality testing

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Kathleen Tyler Conklin/ Flickr
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A new technology will make testing water quality at Michigan beaches faster. And that means safer swimming. 

County water departments  are required to test  public beach water for E. coli contamination. But the testing process has been pretty slow – it can take around 24 hours for results to come in. That means that a health department may not close a beach a full day after it discovers water was unsafe for swimmers. 

A new lab called HEART (The Huron to Erie Alliance for Research and Training Freshwater Center) is using new technology that can get results in less than four hours. 

Carol Miller is a professor at Wayne State University and a part of the project. She wants the public to know that this testing is for their benefit. 

"We’re not trying to find problems; in fact, we are trying to confirm that the beach is safe and we’re trying to get people out to the beaches to take advantage of all this great shorefront that the state of Michigan has," said Miller.

For now, samples will be taken from Lake St. Clair  beaches twice a week as part of the project. If successful, the program could be shared with other health departments around the state.  

E. coli can sometimes make its way into the lakes from sewer overflow. 

"When you get a large rainfall event like we had back in May, there could be some problems and fecal matter could be washed into the lake or into the Clinton River and impact the beach," said David Szlag, who is also involved with the lab. 

 

HEART is a joint venture that includes Wayne State University, Macomb Community College, the Metroparks system and Macomb County. 

 

– Reem Nasr, Michigan Radio Newsroom