Monroe County: No swimming at Ontario Beach Park due to ‘clarity issues’, risk of E.coli bacteria

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — If you were out on Ontario Beach, trying to catch some rays recently, you probably saw yellow rope keeping people out of the water.

Monroe County Health officials say the beach was shut down because of state-mandated clarity issues that could lead to high levels of E. coli.

"We were going to go in the water today [Monday]," Dominique Zappia said.

"But we were told there was this E. coli issue in the water and that we had to steer clear for our own good," Mark-Vincentsansone said.

"Yeah, which stinks," Zappia added.

Monroe County health officials explained to News10NBC why the lake water is cloudy almost "milkshake" looking as they described it: Because of major rain that’s added sediment and other materials in the lake. They also told us, when there’s heavy rainfall like we’ve seen recently, the Mt. Morris Dam holds back enormous amounts of water, then steadily releases it over time to get its reservoir back to an appropriate level and ready for the next storm.

"It increases turbidity or water clarity on the beaches so it’s a direct public safety issue and if they can’t see into the water they can perform their lifeguarding skills,” Scott Hallock said, from the Monroe County Department of Health.

When this happens it can create a breeding ground for bacteria like E. coli. Hallock says E. coli is natural, so it’s common for it to be in the water but when it has the potential to brew it’s not safe to swim.

"One of the ways a beach naturally cleans itself from E. coli and other bacterias is sunlight and when sunlight doesn’t have a chance to do its work because of too much turbulence and sediment those conditions can stay around longer,” Hallock said.

People were still strolling on the boardwalk or in the sand under an umbrella. Some told us, they wish there were more signs and information instead of having to guess why they can’t swim.

"I’d say even before you reach the beach maybe they could put some signs up saying not to go in the water something of that sort,” Mark-Vincentsansone said.

"It gets a lot of people on edge because they want to go swimming a lot of people are on vacation and they come out of state, they want to see Ontario Beach,” Jerry Dunn said, who was walking along the boardwalk.

Health officials say they’ll continue to test the water every day to make sure there are no E. coli outbreaks. Part of the main concern is river flow and now they’re waiting for the water to be a certain level to open back up.

More information can be found here. You can also call (585) 753-5887 for updates.