Our Services > Environmental Health >

Bathing Beach Program & Harmful Algal Blooms (HABS)

Twenty-five Bathing Beach locations are tested across Erie County 4 days per week (Mon-Thurs) from the Tuesday after Memorial Day until the Thursday before Labor Day weekend. The beaches are tested for E. coli (Escherichia coli) bacteria at the Erie County Health Department Laboratory. The E. coli test requires that each beach sample be incubated for a minimum of 18 hours. Because of the long incubation period the beach ratings cannot be determined until the day after the sample was taken (E.g. the results obtained from Mondays sampling will not be posted until Tuesday). Beach ratings are assigned based on the number of E. coli bacteria that were found in the sample (see the ratings signs below). These signs are being posted on a regular basis at various beach locations across Erie County during the sampling season.


beach rating good signbeach rating fair sign
Good = 0-64Fair = 65-125
beach rating poor signbeach rating advisory sign
Poor = 126 and aboveAdvisory = 235 and above
(or 3 consecutive poor ratings)

The Erie County Bathing Beach program follows the criteria set by the
EPA’s National Beach Guidance.

Harmful Algal Blooms

Harmful Algal Blooms, commonly referred to as HAB's, are actually blooms of bacteria not algae. This bacterium is capable of photosynthesizing which is why it is labeled as algae. Blue green algae are capable of producing toxins; which are called cyanotoxins; that can be harmful to a person or domestic pet. The cyanotoxins produce by blue green algae can affect the liver, brain, and possibly cause skin irritation. Blue green algae while present, may not always be producing toxins. The algae may be found in high concentrations in a body of water and you may see a visible bloom, but this does not mean the algae are producing a toxin.

The illnesses associated with cyanotoxins can mimic other common illnesses. Some of the common symptoms of exposure to the toxin(s) are skin rashes, nausea, gastro-intestinal distress, numbness, fatigue, and disorientation.

The Erie County Health Department monitors for the presence of harmful algal blooms. Once a bloom has been detected a toxin sample is taken and analayzed at the Erie County Health Department Laboratory. If the toxin is above recommended threshold limits the location where the sample was taken will be posted with the appropriate signage.

lake water warning
algal warning sign algal danger sign

Related Links:
Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Bathing Beach Monitoring
Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Harmful Algal Bloom Information (HAB)
Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) Algal 101

example of beach signExample of beach signage in Erie County