The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) has restricted swimming on Beach 6 at Presque Isle State Park due to elevated E. coli levels.
The PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center is a statewide environmental group. They conduct a “safe for swimming” report that details beach pollution at Presque Isle and across the country.
Ashleigh Deemer, the deputy director, said the data they found in Erie is alarming.
“Of the eight beaches tested in Erie County — that’s seven here on Presque Isle and Freeport Beach up the road — every single one was found to have potentially unsafe levels of bacteria on at least 10% of the days they were tested,” said Deemer.
She added Beach 6 was found to have bacteria on 34% of the days tested and that runoff and sewage overflows are the main culprit for these levels.
“Our communities are covered in asphalt and concrete, big rains have nowhere to go so they pick up contaminates on our parking lots and our sidewalks and they carry them into our streams and directly into our lake,” Deemer continued.
Beach 6 waved with a red flag on Tuesday as the Erie County Department of Health issued a swim restriction due to elevated E. coli levels.
“E. coli is one of those things that always existed in the natural environment here. It depends on a lot of different factors on what makes it go up,” said Matt Green, operations manager at Presque Isle.
Greene explained that these levels are due to the wind and waves mixing sand into the water.
“As soon as we get enough samples to drop the geometric mean to an acceptable level through the health department, we’ll open it back up,” he said.
Deemer also said it’s still important to look at the signs when entering the park.
“It’s appropriate to take caution. Nobody wants to have their beach vacation ruined by intestinal distress. We need to take the warnings we see at the beach seriously,” Deemer said.
She added that the City of Erie has developed a stormwater improvement plan as a first step to tackle this issue.