Letter to the Editor: Swimming Can Wait


Christian Stohlmann, Guest Reporter

As the temperature gets warmer, the days grow longer and, of course, people are relishing in the outdoors. You’ll notice that Pettibone Beach will be packed with all those trying to soak up the sun. As you probably already know, Pettibone Beach is located on the shore of the Mississippi River. Although you may want to run in and splash around in the water because it’s warm – you may want to think twice.

Last week, UWL’s Microbiology Department headed to Pettibone Beach to conduct research and analysis on Recreational Waters. According to a sample taken from the Mississippi, there was a total of 829 Coliforms per 100 mL. For those of you who don’t know what Coliforms are, they are bacteria that are typically negative for humans.

If that’s not enough to disgust you, of the 829 Coliforms found, 689 of them were Escherichia Coli, commonly referred to as E. Coli. E. Coli is known to almost exclusively to be of fecal origin. According to the EPA and EAI Labs, “unsafe” water for swimming is where there exceeds more than 406 E. Coli/100 mL in a single test. That’s also for swimming conditions, not to mention how dangerous the water could be if any was swallowed.

Now this is very common after the ice begins to thaw; the water will naturally undergo a filtration process, and the water should be safe for swimming within the next week or so. For now? I strongly recommend staying out of the water, just to stay safe. We waited all winter to be able to go swimming again, I think we can wait for a couple days longer.

Contact the UWL Microbiology Department or Christian Stohlmann to learn more about the results from the Pettibone Beach coliform study.

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