Iowa beaches under advisories due to pollution

Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | August 17, 2021

More than a dozen state and federal beaches in Iowa are currently under “swimming not recommended” advisories due to bacterial pollution.

The beaches under new advisories are spread out across the state, with four in the southwest corner of the state and the other eight on the eastern half. 10 of the beaches were already under these advisories, but three were added on Friday. The advisories stem from high fecal bacteria levels in the water. The bacterial levels mean its likely that individuals who enter the water can catch pathogens. The bacteria can also harm animals.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ website said children, the elderly, and individuals with weakened immune systems have an increased risk of illness if they swim in contaminated waters. No beaches have been closed for the levels of fecal bacteria. Beaches also have not been put under advisories for toxic algae.

The risks of the water at these 13 beaches include intestinal illness and infection. The change in advisories comes a few weeks after the Iowa DNR issued a dozen toxic beach warnings. These warnings came from microcystin, a toxin produced by blue-green algae blooms in a body of water.

The Iowa DNR regularly tests beach water from Memorial Day to Labor Day to diagnose water contaminants.

DNR Sets Stricter Water Quality Thresholds for Iowa Beaches

Via Flickr

Nicole Welle | June 15, 2020

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) decided to follow stricter standards this summer for the amount of toxins found in the water at public beaches.

Microcystin is a toxin produced by cyanobacteria in algae blooms in Iowa’s lakes. It poses health threats to humans and animals that swim at beaches with high levels of the toxin and can cause abdominal pain, blistering, pneumonia and vomiting if ingested. Dogs have also died from being exposed to it, according to an Iowa Environmental Council news release.

In 2006, Iowa DNR began using a threshold of 20 micrograms per liter to issue beach advisories. However, they decided to lower it to 8 micrograms per litre this year after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommended it.

The DNR currently monitors only a small percentage of Iowa’s recreational beaches, but they were able to issue a number of advisories and temporarily close beaches on Lake Macbride, Spirit Lake and Lake Rathbun last year when microcystin levels exceeded the threshold. The number of advisories issued this year is likely to be much higher than past years under the new guidelines.

College students lend a hand to prairie restoration

Photo by USFWS Endangered Species, Flickr

Iowa Lakes’ students are working to expand the prairie at Fort Defiance State Park in Emmet County.

Efforts by the students and others have helped double the area of the prairie over the last three years.

The Estherville Daily News reports that the students invested a substantial amount of time to aid Iowa’s natural environment:

“The students have put in over 100 hours collectively,” said [Iowa Lakes’ professor Gary] Phillips. “They’ll also collected seed to repopulate the area that’s been cleared. The time together is over 150 hours.”

For more information on the prairie and Iowa’s ecosystem, check out our interview with Connie Mutel.