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EGLE is creating safer beaches with rapid-testing technology

June 6, 2019

People walking at Saugatuck beachRainy days seem to have delayed the start of summer in Michigan, but beach season is on the horizon. EGLE, in partnership with local health departments, is deploying rapid testing for E. coli at beaches across the state of Michigan this summer.

E. coli are a type of bacteria normally found in nature, but its presence can be an indication of fecal contamination from potential sources such as storm water run-off, leaky septic systems, or the presence of many gulls and geese congregating in one place. Swimming in water with high levels of E. coli can make people sick with symptoms including stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, and (rarely) more serious effects.

In the past, health departments across Michigan have used a culture-based method for E. coli testing at Michigan public beaches that can take 24 hours to get results. To get data to the public more quickly, EGLE, in partnership with local health departments, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Michigan State University, as well as several other Michigan universities, has led a statewide effort to develop faster, more efficient ways to test for E. coli. A new method called "Quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction (qPCR) technology" is being deployed around the state and can produce results in as little as three hours.

This new technology allows same-day results to quickly determine whether or not beaches are safe for swimming. Rapid testing with qPCR technology is currently being used at 100 beaches with plans to expand to more beaches with a new lab in Port Austin, Michigan.

Learn more about beach closings in our one-minute MI EnviroMinute video. Check for beach closings before swimming on the Michigan BeachGuard webpage, and view annual beach monitoring reports on the EGLE beach monitoring webpage.

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