The Burlington County Health Department has created a new online dashboard listing the results of fecal coliform bacteria tests at recreational lakes throughout the county.
The Public Recreational Bathing Water Testing dashboard launched this month on the health department webpage and lists the most recent test results for E.Coli bacteria, which is one of the most common forms of fecal coliform bacteria and one of the best indicators of a health risk from water contact in freshwater rivers, lakes and streams.
The testing is required by state law and is used to determine the water quality and risk of illnesses from swimming, including gastrointestinal and respiratory viruses or eye, ear, nose and skin infections.
“Swimming is a fun activity for all ages and Burlington County is home to dozens of outstanding recreational swimming beaches,” said Dr. Herb Conaway, director of the Burlington County Health Department. “We want residents to enjoy these lakes to the fullest extent, but we also want to make sure these waterbodies remain safe and that there’s little risk for bacteria-borne illnesses. Our county testing program allows us to monitor the water quality of each recreational lake in the county and the dashboard allows residents to easily access the results in an easy-to-understand format.”
The dashboard lists the date of each test, lake name, municipality and result. If a first test exceeds the predetermined limit, the lake is retested. If the retest comes back above the limit again, the lake is closed for swimming until the count returns to acceptable levels.
No lakes in Burlington County are currently closed, according to the dashboard.
Fecal coliform in lakes is a common occurrence and natural due to the presence of geese, ducks, fish and other wildlife. However, levels often increase due to human activities that cause the congregation of wildlife. Concentrations of geese, gulls and ducks can easily impact fecal coliform levels in a water body, so residents should avoid feeding them.
Stormwater runoff from roads, parking lots and other impervious surfaces is another common source for water contamination, and fecal coliform levels frequently rise following storms with heavy rains. The runoff picks up and carries pollutants, including pet waste, before depositing them into surface waters. Residents are strongly encouraged to clean up all pet waste to prevent this contamination from occurring.
“It may seem trivial, but things like cleaning up after your dog and not feeding ducks or geese matter when it comes to protecting lakes and streams from pollution,” Conaway said. “Our actions also count when it comes to public health, so we want to encourage residents to be mindful and aware of what conditions are before heading to a local lake or beach for a swim.”