New Water Testing Methods at Presque Isle - WICU12 HD WSEE Erie, PA News, Sports, Weather and Events

New Water Testing Methods at Presque Isle

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The electronic signs at the entrance of Presque Isle State Park have been busy this summer. They've been reminding visitors of possible bacteria problems at certain beaches. There's been more advisories this year than in years past.

"You'll see more, just naturally, because we're testing three times as much than we did before. Essentially, three and a half times as much," says Harry Leslie, Park Manager.

The park is using new technology to analyze the beach waters. It used the technology in addition to the method it traditionally used.  Traditionally, park officials physically collect water samples from each beach and have them tested. But, that happens only on Mondays and Tuesdays, and results are slow.

"The problem with that is it takes 24 hours. A lot of times, by the time we get the results, the water's better, and we're putting a posting out," Leslie said.

This year, the park is also using data from the Internet. Experts analyze wind direction at the beaches, wave height, rainfall, and other information. This takes place seven days a week. The experts make a prediction, based on history, on whether conditions are right to have a possible e-coli contamination.  If so, the information is immediately posted on the electronic signs at the entrance of the park.

"The difference, Leslie says, "if you look at our signs, is you see it says Beach Advisory. That means it is a regulatory advisory based on a 24 hour plate sample from the day before. If you see a Precautionary Advisory, on our signs, that's based on our model system that we're continually refining and testing."

The only time a beach is closed is when a water sample comes back with a bacteria count of more than 1000.  That has not happened all summer. All advisories posted so far this year have told people to swim at their own risk.

Park officials say the ideal testing method would be putting some kind of litmus paper in the water, and results would be available immediately.  That technology, they say, is not yet available.



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