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Not out of the woods yet

State will test more samples of Pell Lake water for E.coli

September 08, 2010 | 08:49 AM
Bloomfield — Fifteen units of E.coli per 100 mL of water.

That's how a recent water sample near the north beach of Pell Lake came up when the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene tested for E.coli.

According to the lab's website, if the sample is less than 235 per 100 mL, the beach doesn't need advisories or warnings issued.

But Bloomfield Town Chairman Ken Monroe isn't saying the threat of dangerous E.coli levels in Pell Lake is over yet.

On Friday, Monroe said the warning sign at the north beach will remain posted.

"We sent two more samples to the state lab taken Sept. 2 near the north and south beaches (and) we're going to see what this test brings," Monroe said.

He said prior to adoption of next year's budget, the Town Board likely will discuss how to handle issues such as routine testing for E.coli and a possible cause to the alleged contamination of the lake.

"If we're going to be testing the lake regularly, we'll have to budget money for it," Monroe said.

The warning sign is posted directly below the town's beach rules, which recently was installed by Rich Olenoski, the man who raised concerns about E.coli in the lake.

In early August, Olenoski said the amount of geese near the lake prompted his concern. He collected water samples near the north and south beaches of Pell Lake.

"People don't want to swim there, so we were afraid," Olenoski said about the concerns from him and his wife, Darlene. "We have been swimming in the lake for years. But now, with the geese and all these droppings Ö you can smell it in the water."

The Genoa City Public Works Department tested samples collected July 27 and Aug. 3 near the north beach. The results were 2,419 and 2,419.6 coliform units, respectively. Olenoski said the state recommends posting advisories at a beach near where samples tested more than 236 cfu.

"Anything over 1,000 they recommend closing," he said.

In response to those tests, Monroe ordered the sign at the north beach. He went on a fact-finding mission and enlisted the aid of the Pell Lake Sanitary District, which weekly tests the lake's fecal count. A district employee collected the recent samples — one Aug. 26 near the north beach and Sept. 2 near both beaches.

After news broke about the test results from the samples collected by Olenoski, Sanitary District President Bill Markut clarified the district's role in the situation and there were a couple of unconfirmed reports of people suffering from E.coli infection.

On Friday, Monroe reported some signs that may be positive as to whether there is dangerous levels of E.coli in the lake.

"I know people have been swimming down there because a gentleman called me and said his children have been swimming in the lake and they haven't had any problems," Monroe said.

Blame it on the geese?

Monroe questioned how significant a role the goose problem on Pell Lake would play in a possible E.coli outbreak.

"They have closed down pools in Milwaukee and Chicago, but there were no geese found at those pools," Monroe said. "With the geese on the beaches, the biggest problem is watching where you walk. It does have some significance to the problem, but how much I don't know."

He expressed a desire to have some representatives from the state Department of Natural Resources meet with the Town Board to discuss both E.coli testing and the goose dilemma. One option Monroe discussed was having an E.coli testing program.

For now, the test results from the Sept. 2 samples likely will be a major factor in how town officials proceed.

"We probably won't test every week, depending on this next test," Monroe said. "If there isn't a problem, we probably won't test anymore this year."

For one thing, he's not sure how much these tests will cost yet.

Monroe said it was $15 for shipping costs alone, but the state hasn't yet sent the town a bill for the tests.

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