During the dog days of summer Northeast Ohioans look for some relief in the refreshing waters of Lake Erie.
“It’s a beautiful day, you know we just want to come out and have a good time,” said beachgoer Sherrie Stanley.
But on Sunday, heavy morning rain got in the way causing a combination of stormwater and sewage to overwhelm underground pipes and overflow at Edgewater Beach.
“They went to put their feet in but the lifeguards said ‘not today,’” said Stanley.
Red flags and “no swimming” signs were up at the beach after the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District posted a public advisory around noon.
“It’s not always about volume, it’s always about when you get that spike in the rain when it just coats up really quickly, there’s only so many places for that rain to go the pipe is only so big so to speak,” said district representative Jenn Elting.
She says everyone is advised to stay out of the water during these events particularly children, the elderly and those who are ill.
Elting says the overflow lasted about 10 minutes and about 285,000 gallons of combined sewage went into Lake Erie.
The lake is normally tested once a day to help predict whether the water is safe to be in, but Elting says that ramps up in these instances.
“What we’ll do is we’ll go out twice a day and we will test E. Coli levels and we will keep the signs posted at the beach until we know the water is safe for everyone to go back and swim in it,” Elting said.
Back in the 1970s, the sewer district says it’s combined sewage outfalls or CSO’s discharged a mix of stormwater and sewage into the lake about 40 to 50 times a year. Sunday’s storm caused the 12th overflow in the past five years.
“We’ve made some adjustments to our regulators in the northwest interceptor, we’re removed some inflatable dams, a lot of other things that we’ve been able to do to really reduce the CSO’s at Edgewater Beach even more,” said Elting.
Elting says they continue to look for ways to improve the function of the system and make overflows happen less frequently.
“We want to use this resource and have a good time and enjoy what’s left of summer,” said another beachgoer.
The test results take 24 hours to come in, so the district uses a predictive model when it comes to determining water safety. That means Monday the advisory will still be in effect.