Staying safe from E. coli at Lake Erie this summer - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

Staying safe from E. coli at Lake Erie this summer

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LUCAS COUNTY, Ohio -

The beaches of Lake Erie can be a fantastic place to spend a summer day swimming, but there are a few things that you should be aware of when it comes to occasional E. coli problems.

It may not be pleasant to think about, but waste from animals does play a role in the water quality at Lake Erie's beaches.

"Birds, seagulls, geese" are among the greatest contaminators, Pam Struffolino, a researcher with the University of Toledo told us.

"Don't feed the birds. The birds will contribute to the problem, especially the geese."

She added that animals are not the only contributors.  "Old septic tanks, street runoff" also can lead to trouble.

Contrary to popular belief, the experts say fertilizer used by farmers is *not* a major contributor to E. coli in our area.

"They don't use animal fertilizer - most generally - in this area, so that's not going to contribute to E. coli as much," Struffolino said.

She suggests that if you go swimming - whether an advisory is posted or not, "at least wash your hands before you eat. A shower would also be a good idea."

Otherwise, E. coli could make you sick.

"Most of what you'd see - now this is not all of it, but most of what you'd see would be rashes, eye infections or ear infections or some gastrointestinal problems," she added.

The weather plays a large role in level of contamination on any given day. Heavy rain often increases the E. coli levels for a couple of days.

"Wind direction has something to do with it, which makes sense if you think about it. Runoff from local watersheds can be blown back toward the beach," she said.

You can find the risk level on any particular summer day by visiting either of these links.

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