Skip to main content
Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

Swim at your own risk: High E. coli count closes nine Michigan beaches

a beach on Lake Michigan on a sunny day
Animal feces, farm manure and sewage are washed into waterways and can drain into the Great Lakes after heavy rainfalls, polluting the water and making swimmers sick. (Shutterstock)
  • 9 Michigan beaches are closed due to high bacteria levels 
  • The contamination occurred after heavy rainfall washed animal feces and other contaminants into the lakes
  • Ingesting or swimming in infested waters may cause illness

June 6: Eight Michigan beaches reopen after E. coli levels drop, one remains closed

Several beaches in Michigan are closed due to contaminated waters that can make swimmers sick — as summer is just around the corner. 

Health officials had closed seven beaches as of Friday after water testing showed high levels of E. coli. Two additional beaches were closed on Tuesday. Recent heavy rainfall washed animal feces and other contaminants into the lakes and caused the elevated levels, said Shannon Briggs, a toxicologist with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy. 

“Any place after it rains, lots of things get washed in,” said Briggs.


Farm manure and sewage runoff are also common culprits of elevated E. coli levels. 

Beaches that remain closed (as of Wednesday)

  • Lake Michigan – Henes Park, Menominee County
  • Lake St. Clair – St. Clair Shores Memorial Park Beach, Macomb County
  • Saginaw Bay – Whites Beach, Arenac County
  • Saginaw Bay/Lake Huron – Arenac County Park, Arenac County
  • Saginaw Bay/Lake Huron – Hammel Beach Road Access, Arenac County
  • Saginaw Bay/Lake Huron – Twining Road Beach, Arenac County
  • Saginaw Bay/Lake Huron – Singing Bridge Beach, Arenac County
  • Ross Lake – Beaverton City Park, Gladwin County
  • Coldwater Lake – Coldwater Park, Isabella County

For now, closed beaches are waiting for bacteria levels to return to normal. 

What’s the deal with E. coli?

What do animal feces, farm manure and sewage all have in common? Poop, which is where E. coli is found.


EGLE says water is only safe for swimming if the level of E. coli falls below a daily mean of 300 per 100 milliliters. 

Swimmers should stay out of waters infested with higher levels of E. coli or risk developing symptoms such as skin rashes, diarrhea and vomiting.

How to prevent closures

Why is dirty, contaminated water running into our beaches in the first place? 

The main problem is rain, said Briggs. 

Some parks groom their beaches every day to remove seagull and goose feces and keep them from contaminating the water. 

For other beaches, like those collecting runoff from nearby rivers, more needs to be done upstream to keep pollution from their shores. 

As Bridge has previously reported, pollution from failing septic systems can drain into lakes and cause closures. Michigan grants are helping homeowners fix their septic systems to prevent pollution. 

In another effort to keep beachgoers safe from contaminated waters, health departments are using a faster water-quality testing method called qPCR. Results come back within the same day, cutting wait time by half or more, said Briggs. 


More importantly, health departments can locate where the bacteria is coming from and prevent the pollution.

“Was it a bird, cow, human or dog?” said Brigg. “That allows them to go back into that area and try to track where that source is coming from so it can be corrected, eliminated or discouraged.”

Going to the beach soon?

If you’re thinking about hitting the beach after heavy rain, Briggs said, check the Michigan BeachGuard System for the latest statewide updates on closures and contamination advisories.

Editor's note: This story was updated at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, June 5, to add the latest beach closures.

How impactful was this article for you?

Michigan Environment Watch

Michigan Environment Watch examines how public policy, industry, and other factors interact with the state’s trove of natural resources.

Michigan Environment Watch is made possible by generous financial support from:

Our generous Environment Watch underwriters encourage Bridge Michigan readers to also support civic journalism by becoming Bridge members. Please consider joining today.

Only donate if we've informed you about important Michigan issues

See what new members are saying about why they donated to Bridge Michigan:

  • “In order for this information to be accurate and unbiased it must be underwritten by its readers, not by special interests.” - Larry S.
  • “Not many other media sources report on the topics Bridge does.” - Susan B.
  • “Your journalism is outstanding and rare these days.” - Mark S.

If you want to ensure the future of nonpartisan, nonprofit Michigan journalism, please become a member today. You, too, will be asked why you donated and maybe we'll feature your quote next time!

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Pay with PayPal Donate Now