High E. Coli Levels Force Closures at Two Burlington Beaches | Off Message

High E. Coli Levels Force Closures at Two Burlington Beaches


Blanchard Beach at Oakledge Park
  • Blanchard Beach at Oakledge Park
Burlington officials closed two city beaches on Lake Champlain Friday after water samples showed high levels of E. coli bacteria.

Red signs at Blanchard Beach in Oakledge Park and Leddy Beach in the city's North End warned visitors against entering the water. The closures came after a combined sewer overflow discharged thousands of gallons of dirty water into the Pine Street Barge Canal during an intense downpour Wednesday night. Authorities said the overflow was 90 percent stormwater "with a small wastewater fraction."

Robert Goulding, public information manager for the Department of Public Works, said the strong storm swept "animal waste, oils and litter" into the water, likely leading to the contamination.

E. coli levels are measured by "colony forming units," or cfu, per 100 milliliters of water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers counts below 235 acceptable; the city of Burlington closes its beaches when E. coli samples eclipse 235.
  • Courtesy: City of Burlington
Blanchard Beach samples taken Thursday showed 770 cfu — more than three times the EPA standard, according to city data. Goulding said it was unclear why the level was so high there.

Leddy Beach recorded levels of 345. All other city beaches were well below 235.
Goulding said the city would analyze sample results Saturday morning before a decision is made about reopening the beaches. Blanchard could need an extra day because its reading was so high, he said.

It was the third time officials closed Blanchard this summer and the first time Leddy Beach was shuttered in 2018. Officials posted a yellow caution sign at the beach just north of the former Blodgett property because it's the closest public water access to the Pine Street Barge Canal, which filled with 65,000 gallons of storm and wastewater overflow during Wednesday's deluge.

Issues with Burlington's aging wastewater infrastructure have taken center stage in recent weeks. The Queen City has released more than 11 million gallons of dirty water since the start of 2018 — nearly quadruple the total from last year — and the system overflows nearly every time a strong storm comes through.

On Thursday, Seven Days spoke to Dave Hungerford, who stood on the side of Williston Road holding a sign that read, "Burlington, Stop Dumping Shit Into Our Lake."

Mayor Miro Weinberger has vowed action on the issue.

For updates on beach closures, click here to visit the city site.
  • File: Sasha Goldstein
  • Dave Hungerford
*Correction, July 27, 2018: A previous version of this story mischaracterized the nature of the stormwater discharge during the latest downpour.