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Cherry Beach in Chikaming Township closed due to E. coli

NOW: Cherry Beach in Chikaming Township closed due to E. coli

BERRIEN COUNTY, Mich. -- Beach goers hoping to soak up the sun at Cherry Beach in Chikaming Township on Friday will have to find another place to do so.

The Berrien County Health Department shut down the beach after the water tested positive for high levels of E. coli earlier this week.

Gillian Conrad, communications manager for the Berrien County Health Department, says any levels above 300 parts per 100 milliliters of water is considered a risk to the public.  

On Monday, during their weekly inspection of Berrien County’s 14 public beaches, sanitarians found the level of E. coli in the water at Cherry Beach at 1,200 parts per 100 milliliters of water.

“We want to make sure all of our public, regardless of age are being protected when they are enjoying our lovely beaches,” said Conrad.

Officials believe a broken sewer line along Red Arrow Highway near Brown Road in Chikaming Township caused the contamination.

According to Conrad and Chikaming Township Supervisor David Bunte, the Galien River Sanitary District owns the line. ABC57 reached out to GRSD to understand what led to the busted pipe, but as of Friday morning, we have not heard back.  

Crews finished repairs to the line on Wednesday, however, Conrad says until sanitarians receive consistent levels of E. coli below the acceptable limit, the beach will stay closed.

This is the first beach closure at Cherry Beach since 2014. Conrad estimates the beach could re-open on Saturday.

If swallowed, E. coli can cause stomach cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting. Young children and older adults are at an increased risk for experiencing illness caused by E. coli and could experience more serious complications from contamination.

However, Conrad says as long as people stay out of the water and take some simple steps afterwards, the contamination doesn’t have to completely ruin a person’s beach day.

“The beach has a lot to offer other than getting fully submerged in the water, so I mean go and enjoy the beach, enjoy the sand,” said Conrad. “Washing their hands thoroughly before they eat anything, before they leave the beach, before they go back home, showering when you do get home, all of those are just great recommendations.”

Three Oaks resident Daniel Whitman occasionally visits Cherry Beach.

“Usually I walk out to the beach, maybe sit out for a little bit, read a book,” said Whitman.

He says he’ll avoid the beach this weekend.

“I think there’s a lot of problems with the water and water quality throughout the state of Michigan,” said Whitman. “It’s good that someone detected it so that the beach is shut down because it’s dangerous to be exposed to this type of contaminants. I suppose that means the health department is doing its job.”

Conrad recommends beach goers check the Michigan Beach Guard system before heading to a beach.

The resource provides information on Michigan beach water quality, sampling results, and beach advisories and closures.

To access the website, click here.

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