Rain and E-coli

As your “Water Resources” girl (AKA “the Cootie Queen”) – let’s talk about poo and sewage, since Kalamazoo just accidentally released 570,000 gallons of it into the Kalamazoo River. Ugh.

It’s probably a good idea to stay out of ANY river or small lake/pond after a heavy rainfall, for a few days until sunlight can kill some of the pathogens. E-coli and its pathogenic friends come from any warm-blooded animal, including birds, farm animals, pets, and wild animals – and a heavy rain will wash an amazing amount of critter poo into storm drains which lead to local rivers (as a rule for cities); or into Agricultural Drains which lead to rivers or lakes (rural areas).  Then, if the sewage plants have overflows (most communities are trying to stop this from happening) – you get a double whammy of human pathogens, too.

I’m not sure how far downstream the e-coli released into the Kalamazoo River will travel.  On its journey to Lake Michigan, it will get diluted and exposed to sunlight which kills it. I’d like to think that it’s a non-event by the time it gets to Plainwell? But we won’t know unless someone is actually testing the water. And because very few sites actually get tested* – we go full circle back to my adage about staying out of  non-beach water after a heavy rain for a few days. Let Mother Nature do her thing and clean it up.

*Large public beaches are routinely tested for e-coli; and in my opinion, unless situated right next to a tributary bringing water from outlying lands, most public beaches are less-affected by heavy rain runoff.  We saw this during our June Around-Gun-Lake water testing, conducted after a night of heavy rain: our public beaches were fine; but the channels/tributaries had elevated e-coli.  I re-tested a week later, and the places with high e-coli, were back to “safe”.

Think of heavy rain as a “giant flush”.  Every time I’ve seen astronomical e-coli readings on the Cuddy – it was after a heavy rainstorm.  I truly doubt it’s just a “Cuddy” thing – I think it’s that way for every drain, creek and river; and probably for smaller ponds/lakes, too.  We just don’t hear about the temporarily-high e-coli because nobody is testing the water.

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Cuddy/Geese/Bridge and other tidbits

Thanks to a power outage on Friday night, the Annual GLPA Membership meeting was held in the dark at the Gun Lake Chapel on Saturday morning. Actually, the Chapel has huge windows all around, so it was remarkably bright and cheery; but for my, um, “senior” eyes that needed to read my notes, it was plenty dark….LOL! A huge thank you! to all who attended and support the GLPA so wonderfully – I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who had to free my garage door from the electric opener so I could attend the meeting.

Andru Jevicks, Park Manager for Yankee Springs State Park, was one of our guest speakers, and he mentioned that earlier this summer, about 150 geese had been captured and relocated; caught either in the park, or in neighborhoods that had requested the DNR’s assistance.  This is awesome news, speaking as the person who tests the water around the lake – this probably explains the complete lack of e-coli in 14 of the 16 locations we tested the first week of August!!  For the 2 locations that registered e-coli, the count was still way in the “safe” zone.  Even the Cuddy had safe e-coli levels!!  There is an irrefutable connection between waterfowl and e-coli: if you have neighbors who like to feed the geese and ducks (which encourages them to hang around), please remind them that they are “fowl fouling” (pun intended) the water.  E-coli lives in the intestines of ALL warmblooded creatures; and that would include birds.

Watch for a bunch of us doing the “Cuddy Check” Monday night August 15th, starting at 5:30 PM.  Dan Fredricks, project engineer; and a representative from the dredging contractor, will be cruising the Cuddy Channel.  They will be looking for potential obstacles to a successful channel dredging, like boat lifts, docks, etc.  Notes will be made, and if the property owners are not on hand, I think an explanatory letter will be left at the home.  Pat Gillespie, Greg Purcell, myself, and several others will be tagging along.  I’m not sure if we’re starting at the upstream or downstream end of the channel?  Cuddy residents should have received an informational letter in the mail by Saturday 8/13/16.

PATTERSON BRIDGE CLOSING:  In that letter, a tentative date of September 12th was mentioned as a construction-start date.  The idea was to wait a week after Labor Day, for those companies that offer boat-storage and winterizing services, to get their clients’ boats out and not have to detour.  The bridge reconstruction and channel dredging will run concurrently; dredging will probably start at the downstream end of the Cuddy Channel; by the time it reaches Patterson, the bridgework should be done.

MUCH better e-coli tests 6/23/16

We had MUCH better tests this time – clearly the scary-high readings last week were just the “Big Flush” after a heavy rain. And probably a good lesson in staying out of ANY smaller body of inland water after a heavy rain? I have no doubt this happens in every watershed after a heavy downpour, especially in an area with agriculture.

Remember, we’re hoping for numbers less than 300 CFUs

Cuddy:
4th North – 100 CFUs
M-179 – 700 (I still suspect we’re getting runoff from a feedlot)
Timber Creek / Cuddy – 800 (continuation from M-179)
Timber Creek / Boot – 200
1st St (the point I test is combined Boot, Cuddy, and Tawsley drains) – 1000
Patterson Bridge – 400
Rich’s house on the Channel – 300 (yay!)

I suspect these numbers will continue to drop as the reconstruction begins upstream? But at this point, the Channel is safe again!  The good news:  there’s not a significant increase in the e-coli count in the Cuddy from M-179 to Timber Creek.  The Biosolids program is NOT impacting our watershed.

Rain Runoff Shows an E-coli Problem 6/16/16

Yesterday, we took around-the-lake water samples, and I knew there might be more e-coli than normal due to the heavy rains (my rain gauge showed 1.24″ in the previous 24 hours). The good news? The lake looks great – the public and private beaches are squeaky-clean.

The bad news:

IMG_6235“A” on the right, is the Allegan County Park – e-coli shows up as blue dots and they have zero.  “J” on the left was taken on the Cuddy near the Condo’s boat ramp.  Too many blue dots to count accurately, and by the final reading on Saturday, will probably be a blue blur.  This is NOT good – there’s clearly a runoff problem somewhere upstream.

Let’s give the Cuddy a few days to settle down; then I will take multiple upstream samples.  Let’s see if we can find where this is coming from, or if it was simply a giant flush of all the wild  animal waste that had accumulated along the riverbanks.  At any rate – do NOT swim or wade in the Cuddy this weekend.

Adding a note on Saturday 6/18/16:  As I check these films, I look for blue dots indicating e-coli, but I’m only supposed to count the ones that are alive and growing, as indicated by little gas bubbles next to the colony (I call them “Cootie Farts”).  You can see some of those in this picture.  I noticed for the final reading today,  that many of the blue dots don’t have bubbles.  I’m just guessing, but maybe that means that a lot of e-coli had flushed into the Cuddy after the heavy rain, but was already dying off due to sun exposure??  That would be a very good sign.

Lake Water Tests June 17th

We went to 17 Gun Lake locations and took water samples. The spots were chosen either due to previous e-coli readings, the likelihood of it bringing e-coli into the lake (creek outlets); or by the density of use. The 3M Petrifilms I use for testing aren’t quite as specific as Lab tests – but they do a great job of showing where the e-coli might be.

The locations and results (CFUs = Colony Forming Units per 100 ml of water):

Allegan County Park – 100 CFUs
Pickeral Cove near Marsh Rd – zero
England Point Resort – 100 CFUs
“Horse Farm” creek – zero
Fawn Lake Outlet – zero
Creek at Trail’s End – zero
Long Lake Culvert – zero
Roosevelt Beach @ State Park – zero
“Old Beach” @ S end of State Park – zero
Main Beach @ State Park – zero
Campground beach @ State Park – zero
Cuddy Drain @ mouth of Robbin’s Bay – 150 CFUs*
Cuddy @ Condos (midpoint) – 350 CFUs*
Cuddy @ Patterson Bridge – 300 CFUs*
Payne Lake outlet @ Channel – zero
Shady Shores north side – zero
Whispering Pines/Oak Grove – zero

*These are good numbers for the Cuddy, considering all the recent rain!

Once again – we have a beautiful and very clean lake!

Quickie Water Test has good results!

I had hoped to collect a few water samples before and after a hard rain (the latter can tell us if there’s a runoff problem) – but Mother Nature didn’t deliver the rain.     sigh.

But the tests I incubated showed a reasonably-clean Cuddy Drain!  Once again, no manure has been spread in the Cuddy Watershed this spring; and the numbers are good.  Not “squeaky-clean” – but I suspect that no Ag Drain ever is?

The e-coli numbers:
M-179 where it crosses the Cuddy: 150 CFUs
First Street crossing (combined Cuddy/Tawsley/Boot drains): 400 CFUs
Patterson Rd crossing (same drains): 450 CFUs

(These might be the lowest values I’ve seen since I started testing the water?  YAY!!!)

Anything above 300 CFUs (“Colony-Forming Units”) is considered “No Body Contact”.  Tests in 2013, for example, had results in the 2000+ CFU range.  My experience is that when the Cuddy Drain meets up with the Cuddy Channel, the CFUs get diluted, sometimes halving the count. Assuming that would be the case, the Cuddy Channel should be safe* for recreation – but before you send your kids out there to swim – I’ll feel better once the mid and lower channel is tested by Summit Labs, which should happen soon.

*Disclaimer: there’s a lot of muck out there – and we don’t know what lurks therein.  Hopefully, the worst that could happen is you get stuck in the mud….

Water Testing Weeks 4 and 5

OK – I’m confused; but so glad I have Aaron Snell of Streamside Ecological Services to make sense of all this data I’ve gathered. I do understand that there are things beyond my control that can skew numbers, like some indecent raccoon pooping upstream from where I’m taking water samples……

Anyway – here are the final two weeks of water sampling data as measured in CFUs (Colony Forming Units/100 ml):

……………………………………………….Sept 9th                         Sept 15th

4th St North*                                                          276                                 548

M-179                                                                      348                                 178

Timber Creek north (Cuddy)                             340                                 192

Timber Creek south (Boot Lk)                           901                                  472

Tawsley    (along 1st St)                                        166                                  178

1st St  (upstream)                                                   777                                  509

Patterson                                                                 752                                  1507

*The 4th St location isn’t sampled in 3 separate locations, nor part of the “official database” – it’s just to help verify the numbers at M-179

Ignoring the 4th St sample – everything is down nicely EXCEPT Patterson and I sure don’t  know why that sample jumped upward??  So confused.  I don’t think a wayward incontinent raccoon would be able to taint the volume of water at three test points ???  Very confusing.   And I can’t even explain the lovely overall drop in E-coli.  The water temperature was much lower than the previous week – but I’ve read that E-coli can survive VERY cold temps.     My brain wants to explode.

Did I mention that I was confused?   🙂