During a nine week period from July to August, Save The River monitored water quality at seven popular swimming areas along the St. Lawrence River for unsafe levels of E.coli. Water at the beaches sampled – Wilson’s Bay in Cape Vincent, Frink Dock in Clayton, Potter’s Beach on Grindstone Island, Lake of the Isles near Wellesley Island, Round Island near Clayton, and Scenic View Park in Alexandria Bay – was consistently within state and federal safe swimming standards. Sampling dates for 2012 were: July 2, July 9, July 16, July 23, July 30 and August 6, August 13, August 20, and August 27.
Several organizations and volunteers provided key support to the Beach Watch program in 2012. Ron Daly, Doug Eberhart, Brandon Hollis, Maria Purcell, Sara Orvis and Dick Withington took samples every week and delivered them to the Save The River office. The Thousand Islands Land Trust provided staff support for sampling at Potter’s Beach. Each week samples were held at T.I. Reality in Clayton before being taken to and analyzed by Converse Laboratories in Watertown, a state certified facility.
Without the support of these volunteers and organizations Save The River would not be able to conduct such an extensive water sampling program; a service it has provided the Thousand Islands area since 1999. Results are always available at the Save The River office in Clayton and on the website. This was the first year results were also posted on line and available on mobile devices using the Swim Guide, app developed by the Lake Ontario Waterkeeper.
Test results were compared to New York State Department of Health standards for beach swimming water quality. Water at swimming beaches is deemed unhealthy if there are 235 colony-forming units (CFU’s) or higher of E.coli bacteria per 100 milliliters of sample water. None of the samples taken this summer for the Beach Watch program exceeded this guideline.
High levels of E.coli bacteria can cause health problems such as rashes and gastrointestinal illness, and are dangerous to the very old, very young or anyone with a compromised immune system. Symptoms of infection include: chills, fever, diarrhea and cramping. To reduce the risk of acquiring a bacteria-related illness, beach goers should employ the following simple safety measures: never swallow swimming water and wash hands after swimming and before eating.
Scientific studies have also indicated that the presence of Cladophora, a type of green algae that occurs naturally in the River and throughout the Great Lakes region, can harbor unsafe levels of bacteria. Swimmers should always look for the presence of Cladophora algae before swimming at most locations on the River.
Why have there been high bacteria levels in the past but not this year?
Save The River continues to work on determining the cause(s) of yearly and seasonal variations in bacteria levels at the Beach Watch sampling locations
Samples were taken at multiple locations at Wilson’s Beach in Cape Vincent and Potter’s Beach on Grindstone Island as a result of consistently high bacteria levels in prior years. Bacteria levels did not spike above the New York State Department of Health‘s standards for safe swimming water at these or any other beaches this summer.
Save The River believes spikes in bacteria levels at Wilson’s Beach are due to the presence of thick mats of Cladophora. Save The River worked with local partners this season to determine the possible cause(s) of increased bacteria levels at Potter’s Beach in the past. The cause of high bacteria levels at Potter’s Beach in 2010 remains unknown. However bacteria levels remained low during the 2011 and 2012 sampling season, making it difficult to identify a source.
Read our 2012 Beach Watch Fact Sheet, which includes a detailed listing of sampling results for the season. For more information or questions, call Save The River at (315) 686-2010.
During the swimming season, interested beach goers can sign up for Save The River’s weekly notification of Beach Watch information. To sign up, call Save The River at (315) 686-2010 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.