AUBURN, Maine — Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, elevated traces of coliform bacteria have been detected at the municipal beach on Route 4.
It’s not exactly a killer shark, but city leaders were sounding the alarm, nonetheless. They issued an advisory Thursday to let swimmers know that an unusually high level of the bacteria was found during a recent round of water-quality testing at the beach across from Lake Auburn.
Coliform bacteria, originating mostly from animal waste, is present in most fresh water. Traces of the bacteria are known to become high after a period of hard rain — the kind of rain that fell all day Thursday in this area.
“This isn’t something abnormal,” said Auburn City Manager Clinton Deschene. “Especially after we’ve received almost no rain all summer, and then we got that hard rain on Thursday.”
When levels of the bacteria get high, they can cause minor skin and eye infections, gastrointestinal disorders and respiratory illness. Parks and Recreation Department officials made the decision to let swimmers know that if they go into the water at the municipal beach, there is a risk.
The water will be tested again in coming days, Deschene said. Chances are good the levels of coliform will return to normal. If they are to stay the same or worsen, city leaders will have to decide whether to keep the advisory in effect or to close the beach.
“We’ll do another round of tests and see where we are,” Deschene said.
The timing of the bacteria spike could have been better. Several events are planned for the weekend’s “Fun in the Sun Bash at the Beach” fundraiser. There’s a yard and bake sale from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday to help buy new playground equipment, a dock and a float.
A free event from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. will include numerous activities: a 50/50 raffle, canoe rides, bounce house, bobbing for apples, a belly-flop contest at 2 p.m. and a hot-dog-eating contest at 3 p.m.
According to Deschene, the activities will go on as scheduled, although people should keep the advisory in mind if they decide to go in the water.
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