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Eichler's Cove Beach Opens After Bacteria Clears Out

Water is safe to swim in after bacteria levels drop off dramatically, officials say

Eichler's Cove Beach, which had been closed for nearly two weeks because of high bacteria counts, was reopened Friday after tests results deemed the water safe for swimming, health officials said.

"We got really good numbers," Health Director Donna Culbert said.

Three samples taken from different points on the beach and were well below levels considered safe for swimming, she said.

The left sample showed that there were 33 colonies of fecal coliform for every 100 milliliter of water, while the sample taken from the midpoint measured 48 colonies and the one from the right had 62 colonies, Culbert said.

Swimming water with 235 colonies or less per 100 milliliters of water is considered safe, under state guidelines.

Last week, all three samples taken from the beach measured more than 2,419 colonies of bacteria per 100 milliliters of water -- the maximum amount the test can detect. On Monday, health officials suspended testing the water, saying that until conditions at the beach changed, there would be no sense to run the test.

Health officials said they believe the bacteria is due to the presence of nearby Canada geese and ducks. In addition, because of a particularly dry stretch of days, water from Lake Zoar does not appear to be moving through the area, which has allowed the bacteria to remain, officials said.

"A lot of it has to do with the flow of water," Culbert said.

She said operators of the upstream dam told her they allowed more of the water to flow downstream toward Newtown on Tuesday following some rain. In addition, personnel by Eichler's Cove stepped up efforts to keep the geese from the beach area and temperatures also appeared to have dropped off, Culbert said.

On Wednesday, to check if any of those changes affected the bacteria count, she ordered the testing of one water sample, which the next day measured about 100 coliforms of bacteria for every 100 milliliter, a good sign, she said.

That led to the lastes round of testing, and the even lower bacterial counts, Culbert said.

"That's happy news," she said.

By Friday afternoon, signs declaring the beach closed were removed and an attendant checking beach cards was called back to work. The beach is expected to remain open the entire weekend.

The next set of bacteria testing is scheduled for Tuesday, officials said.

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