Water Quality at Burlington Beaches
Current Beach Status:
February 21, 2024: Oakledge Blanchard beach is re-opened following a leak in the nearby sewage system.
- Beaches are inspected daily for Cyanobacteria blooms during the warmer weather season.
- Cyanobacteria and Cyanotoxin exposure can make people and animals sick, learn more here and here.
- Please note that our bi-weekly E. Coli testing is finished for the 2023 beach season.
Translated information on Cyanobacteria:
Cyanobacteria Fact Sheet in: العربية (Arabic) | Bosnian | မြန်မာစာ (Burmese) | دری (Dari) | English | Français (French) | Kirundi | नेपाली (Nepali) | پښتو (Pashto) | Soomaali (Somali) | Español (Spanish) | Kiswahili (Swahili) | Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese)
Translated videos on Burlington beach closures / no swimming signs from Vermont Language Justice Project:
ENGLISH | SPANISH | FRENCH | MANDARIN | ARABIC | BURMESE | DARI | KIRUNDI | MAAY MAAY | NEPALI | PASHTO | SOMALI | SWAHILI | VIETNAMESE | UKRAINIAN
- Blodgett Access is not formally designated as a swimming area and does not get tested for E.Coli, but gets monitored for Cyanobacteria blooms.
- North Shore Natural Area is not formally designated as a swimming area and does not get tested for E.Coli or monitored for Cyanobacteria blooms.
What is Cyanobacteria?
Cyanobacteria, or “blue-green algae”, is naturally found in fresh water in the U.S. and in Lake Champlain and other Vermont waters. Cyanobacteria “blooms” can form when water conditions are right for growth (factors include warm water temps, stillness, high phosphate levels).
As they break down, cyanobacteria can release toxins or poisons (cyanotoxins) into the water posing a hazard to human and animal health. These toxins can be particularly harmful to pets, children and those with compromised immunity.
Learn what cyanobacteria blooms look like and find translated materials at healthvermont.gov/cyanobacteria.
Learn how to spot Cyanobacteria in this video:
Current E. Coli levels
How we determine beach closures
Bi-weekly Water Tests for E. Coli
The City of Burlington samples all official swimming areas at Burlington parks for the presence of E. coli during the summer season. E. coli is an “indicator” bacteria, while it likely does not cause sickness itself, it can reflect the presence of other sickness-causing organisms.
- We test the water at all official beaches for E. coli twice per week.
- Beaches close when levels go above EPA VT’s standard of 235 per / 100 mL
- Samples are sent to certified labs and results come back in 24 hours, on Tuesday & Friday.
- Results are a calculated count , or “most probable number” of e-coli bacteria per 100 milliliter sample.
- If a sample at a beach area is higher than the EPA standard of 235 e-coli per 100 milliliter sample, that area will be closed to swimming, but can remain open to other activities.
- Affected sites then are tested daily and reopen to swimming once results return to acceptable levels.
For more info about healthy recreational water go to: http://healthvermont.gov/enviro/water/recwater.aspx
Daily Visual Checks for Cyanobacteria
City beach staff are trained annually by the Lake Champlain Committee to monitor the water for signs of Cyanobacteria blooms.
Cyanobacteria monitoring and testing procedures:
- During the summer months, public swimming areas on Lake Champlain are monitored by City beach staff daily for cyanobacteria (“blue-green algae”) blooms.
- If a potential bloom is sited, the beach staff will notify the Beach Manager.
- The Beach Manager or one of the Assistant Managers will verify that it is Cyanobacteria by performing a visual inspection
- A sample of the water will be take in a clear vessel to perform a water column test.
- If the water in the clear vessel appears to have algae remaining only on the surface, cyanobacteria are assumed to be present.
- If cyanobacteria are verified present by the two tests, beach staff will immediately start to clear people from the water at the affected beach.
- “Closed Due to Cyanobacteria” signs are posted, as well as cyanobacteria information signs.
- The Beach Manager will notify predetermined City and State Health Department staff of the bloom and subsequent closure immediately via email.
- Staff will continue to monitor the progression, or regression, of the bloom throughout the day.
- The following day, staff will perform tests to confirm that the water is clear.
- The State of Vermont requires that the City wait to test until after 10:30am, the morning following a beach closure.
- The first test for re-opening the beach is visual: can the slime or scum like substance be seen on the water surface?
- If visual test is negative, staff will use Abraxis Microcystins test strips to test the water for toxins produced by Cyanobacteria (this test takes approximately 40 minutes).
- Test results at 5 ppb or lower allow for the beach to be reopened.
We post the updated status of our beaches from Memorial Day to Labor Day
- During the summer months, public swimming areas on Lake Champlain are monitored daily for cyanobacteria (“blue-green algae”) blooms and tested twice a week for safe e-coli levels (scroll down to see more information on water testing).
- The summer season runs from Memorial Day through Labor Day. In the off season, our beaches are monitored on an as-needed basis. Swim at your own risk at other locations along the lake.
- After Labor Day, visit the Vermont Department of Health website for lake conditions across the state, including Lake Champlain. https://www.healthvermont.gov/health-environment/recreational-water/lake-conditions
- Find the current Lake temperatures on the USGS website
- Past closures from previous years are archived here.
Learn more about water quality in Lake Champlain
Causes and solutions for Cyanobacteria blooms in Lake Champlain
- Blooms are the result of long-term, wide scale nutrient inputs from all land use sectors in the Lake Champlain basin. Wastewater sources account for approximately 3% of this load.
- Warm lake temperatures and still water can be primary triggers for cyanobacteria blooms
- The science is clear that CSOs do not significantly increase the nutrient load that can lead to Cyanobacteria blooms.
- The City’s ongoing Integrated Planning efforts include several strategies to reduce nutrient inputs to Lake Champlain from urban stormwater runoff. Some of these strategies are already under implementation, including the construction of retrofit projects to treat stormwater from City roads before it reaches the lake, and the enforcement of stormwater management requirements under the City’s Chapter 26 Ordinance for anyone looking to expand impermeable surfaces in Burlington.
- Lake Champlain Committee (LCC) has developed an award-winning program to provide critical data on where and when blooms are happening. The organization works with citizens, businesses, farmers, communities, and governments to protect and restore lake health. Lake Champlain Committee focuses on three strategic areas: clean water, a healthy lake and access to the lake. They also help monitor pollution, invasive species, bacteria, toxics, global warming and water conservation. Learn more on their website: http://www.lakechamplaincommittee.org
- CyanoTracker site for Lake Champlain and Vermont inland lakes – http://www.healthvermont.gov/tracking/cyanobacteria-tracker
- Learn more about the health of Lake Champlain through The Lake Champlain Basin Program (LCBP) which works in partnership with government agencies from New York, Vermont, and Québec, private organizations, local communities, and individuals to coordinate and fund efforts that benefit the Lake Champlain Basin’s water quality, fisheries, wetlands, wildlife, recreation, and cultural resources. Read the Lake Champlain Basin Program’s State of the Lake report. The report informs the public and resource managers about Lake Champlain’s condition, including trends in key indicators of water quality and ecosystem health. Request a copy by contacting email@example.com, or head over to the online version at http://sol.lcbp.org.