During the summer months, our public swimming areas on Lake Champlain are monitored daily and tested twice a week for e-coli to ensure quality and safety. Our summer season runs from about Memorial Day through Labor Day. In the off season, our beaches are monitored on an as-needed basis.
Please note: All beaches and parks remain open to the public, however, we DO NOT test of regularly monitor water conditions. Enter the water at your own risk.
As of late October, we have received reports of cyanobateria blooms at several locations along the waterfront, including Oakledge and Eagle Bay near Rock Point. If you see anything that looks like a “bloom”, we advise that you DO NOT enter the water, or let pets play in the water.
Details are below.
Summer 2019 Water Quality
Below is the test results for our bi-weekly e-coli tests. Click to enlarge.
Water testing has ended for the Summer season.
8/30: e-coli test results continue to look good, and all beaches are open.
8/10: Leddy Beach is reopened.
Test results came back showing only 6.3 micro-organisms per 100 mL (I’m away this weekend and will not be able to update the graph above -Diana 🙂
8/9: Leddy Beach closed due to high e-Coli levels.
8/6: ALL BEACHES OPEN!
All beaches are open, our regular e-coli testing results came back great, and there are no sighting of cyanobacteria!
7/22 ALL BEACHES ARE OPEN
North beach tested well and the water looks crystal clear so we are opening it back up today.
ALL the swimming areas are open today.
7/21 Beach Update:
Only North Beach remains closed today
7/20 Afternoon Beach Update:
North Beach and Texaco Beaches are closed for a large cyanobacteria bloom. Beaches at Oakledge and Leddy are open! We will continue to monitor throughout the day.
Oakledge Beaches – Blanchard Beach looked good and tested fine and has reopened. The Cove, however, will remain closed with a class 2 bloom.
All beached tested fine for e-coli.
7/18 Evening update: Oakledge beaches closed
This evening, our staff spotted Cyanobacteria blooms at Oakledge. The Cove and Blanchard beaches are closed. Will re-test starting at 10:30am tomorrow.
7/16 All beaches open
As of noon today, all beaches are clear of Cyanobacteria and have been re-opened. Test show no signs of harmful toxins. We also send samples to the health labs for further review.
The e-coli water test results for all swimming areas are good.
7/15 Beach closure notices:
4:50pm UPDATE: Texaco Beach is now closed due to the visual sighting of Cyanobacteria.
Perkins Pier launch ramp has a visual sighting, and appropriate signage is onsite. Boaters can use the launch ramp, but we urge caution and to not enter the water.
Beaches that are open: Blanchard Beach, Leddy Beach and North Beach. No visual sightings at the Coast Guard launch ramp or the water access area by the dog park.
All areas will be re-checked tomorrow morning. No decision will be made until after 10:30am.
Notice at 3:20pm: OAKLEDGE COVE BEACH is closed to swimming due to the suspicion of cyanobacteria. Signs will be posted.
7/13 All beaches are open again today!
North Beach, Texaco Beach, & Leddy Beach are all open again today! Test results today were good for all three beaches. Last night visual check of all three locations saw no signs of Cyanobacteria in the water. Website will be updated later!
7/12 Beach closures
Update 12:20pm: We are closing Leddy, North Beach and Texaco due to high suspicion of Cyanobacteria.
Oakledge Cove and Blanchard Beach are OPEN.
Our water tests for e-coli at the public swimming have good results. Those tests have been good all summer.
Separate from the event above, please note that Blodgett access area and Perkins Pier have been posted because of a CSO discharge. Here is DPW’s statement regarding that:
Beginning at 10:48PM on July 11th, the Pine Street Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) discharged into Pine Barge Canal. Thanks to recent work building on investments by earlier generations, CSO’s discharge far less frequently than ever before in Burlington. It is important to note that this CSO is unrelated to Wastewater Treatment Plant performance, does not discharge directly to Lake Champlain and is comprised of a vast majority of stormwater with a smaller wastewater fraction. These are permitted events – designed to reduce the likelihood of sewage backups in homes and businesses. While not required, we post advisory signs within one mile of this discharge — at Perkins Pier and the Blodgett Public Access Area. No beaches are closed.
2018 water quality. Click to enlarge.
Learn more about water quality of Lake Champlain
Bi-weekly Water Tests for e-Coli
Burlington Parks, Recreation and Waterfront samples all managed swimming areas at our parks when they are open for the season. We take samples at several locations twice a week, on Monday & Thursday. Samples are sent to certified labs and results come back in 24 hours, on Tuesday & Friday. Tests are done for e-coli which is an “indicator” bacteria. It is called an indicator because while it likely does not cause sickness itself, its presence could reflect the possible presence of other sickness causing organisms. 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
Other safety concerns include cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) which occurs naturally in lakes. However, under the right conditions they form large accumulations – referred to as blooms – which can release toxins, making the water unsafe for swimming. These blooms can be particularly harmful to pets, children and those with compromised immunity. 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.
Our staff has been fully trained to monitor for cyanobacteria in our swimming areas.
City beach staff are trained annually by the Lake Champlain Committee to be able to monitor the water on a daily basis for signs of any blooms forming. If a potential bloom is sited, the beach staff will notify the Beach Manager. The Beach Manager or one of the Assistant Manager’s will verify that it is Cyanobacteria by performing a visual inspection as well as acquiring a sample of the water into a clear container 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 by the two visual tests, beach staff will immediately start to clear the water at the affected beach and post the “Closed Due to Cyanobacteria” signs, 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. Once a bloom is detected, staff will keep monitoring the progression or regression of the bloom throughout the day.
If the bloom dissipates within the same day, the State of Vermont requires that the City wait until the next morning after 10:30am to test and confirm that the water is clear. The test for opening the beach is first a visual test; can the slime or scum like substance be seen on the water surface? If not, we utilize the Abraxis Microcystins test strips and test the water. The test will take approximately 40 minutes. Test results at 5 ppb or lower allow for the beach to be reopened.
Causes and solutions
- 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.
- Recent historical data shows that Burlington may see blooms begin as early as early July.
- 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.
LCC 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 how to spot blue-green algae in this video:
You can also 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. Learn more at www.lcbp.org.
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.