GILFORD — After the busy 4th of July weekend, water testing at Ellacoya State Park Beach showed fecal bacteria at levels beyond state standards, making the area unsuitable for wading or swimming, the state Department of Environmental Services said Tuesday.
Samples were taken Monday and new samples were to be taken Wednesday to see if the advisory can be lifted. Wednesday's results were expected to be available today. When samples exceed standards, signs are posted warning that exposure to the water may cause vomiting, diarrhea or fever.
The 600-foot beach on Lake Winnipesaukee in Gilford was so crowded on Independence Day that beachgoers were being turned away by 9:30 a.m.
Amanda McQuaid, DES beach program coordinator, said Ellacoya and Weirs Beach in Laconia are so busy that when fecal bacteria exceeds standards, human causation is presumed. Elsewhere, waterfowl can cause high bacteria counts.
Weirs Beach is tested twice a month and has not exceeded the standards so far this summer.
The state tests water at beaches under a program that cost the municipality $270 per beach for once-a-month testing for the summer, and $540 for twice-a-month testing.
The city told the DES that Weirs was the only beach it wants tested.
Other city beaches are Bond, Bartlett, Opeeche Point and Opeeche Cove.
Amy Lovisek, director of Laconia Parks and Recreation, said the city recommends people swim at Opeeche Point instead of the cove, where waterfowl waste is a problem.
A kite portraying a bald eagle is attached to a pole at the cove and swings over the beach to scare away ducks and geese. The latest addition to the effort to keep waterfowl away are two fake swans anchored in the cove. Swans are a natural enemy of ducks and geese.
Lovisek said the city opted out of the state program for its beaches other than Weirs, partly because of the cost of testing and partly because the time lag between sampling and test results means the information can be outdated.
“This is a volunteer program, not everybody needs to do that,” Lovisek said. “For Weirs Beach, being so populated, we wanted to give them the information.”
It would cost about $2,000 for all of the city’s beaches to be tested over the summer, McQuaid said.
“We strongly recommended testing,” she said. “People expect it.”
McQuaid said that over a 10-year span, water tests showing no violation occurred at Weirs Beach 69 percent of the time, while Bartlett was 60 percent, Opeeche Point was 89 percent, Opeeche Cove was 51 percent and Bond was 92 percent.
She said most towns and cities participate in the water-testing program.
"My experience over the last few years, I typically get resistance from Laconia and I can't recall other communities that responded that way," McQuaid said. "They do rely on the beaches for their economy, so it can be a tough situation."
McQuaid said testing information can be valuable, even if there is a time lag between testing, initial results and the results of re-testing.
"Studies have shown the bacteria tends to linger for a few days," she said.
Those who opt out of the program should post beaches with signs warning the public that the water is not being tested by the state. Laconia hadn’t posted those signs as of Tuesday, but McQuaid said she would deliver some on Wednesday for immediate posting.