When sophisticated testing of the water at Wolf Lake’s swimming area revealed the source of E.coli contamination was human waste, Fond du Lac County pulled old pit toilets at the public beach and budgeted funds to construct new bathrooms.
Portable bathrooms were used the past two years and a $190,000 project to build new restrooms and a parking lot is under way.
“Our pit toilet that was there since the mid-’60s was leaking and we were afraid it might be a source (of contamination),” said Fond du Lac County Planning/Parks Director Sam Tobias.
The project at Wolf Lake features new bathrooms with flush toilets, sinks and two shower heads outside the building for swimmers to rinse lake water and sand. A new well, conventional septic system and electric service was installed and the parking lot will be updated.
County leaders believe they are doing everything they can to upgrade facilities and ensure they aren’t contributing to E.coli at the lake.
The elevated E.coli levels recorded at one of three sample sites on a recent cool spring day came as a surprise and prompted officials to post a beach advisory on June 7.
“In any natural lake there’s always E.coli ... from the geese, ducks, fish, frogs — it’s there,” Tobias said. “Usually numbers are low enough that it is not a health hazard.”
Gloria Smedema of the Fond du Lac County Health Department did not know what to attribute the elevated E.coli level to. She said it is not unusual for beach water to test inconsistently.
“It has since dropped down again,” she said.
Advanced testing of the water with elevated E.coli has not been done to determine if the source of contamination was from animals or humans. Tobias said testing costs in the neighborhood of $1,000.
He said the county is not the source.
“It’s still a mystery where this count came from.” Tobias said.
Construction appears to be keeping geese away. Goose droppings have been blamed in the past as a source of elevated E.coli levels. Tobias tells those who believe the source is residual waste from the county’s pit toilet that any waste would have been broken down now through natural bacterial processes.
Officials are keeping a close eye on water test results.
“August seems to be the month we get really high counts,” Tobias said. “There is hot, dry weather and not a lot of movement of the water. This is going to be a wait and see (situation).”
Laurie Ritger may be reached at email@example.com or (920) 907-7925.