Ingham County Community Surface Water Program
Environmental Health staff sample 21 rivers and streams throughout Ingham County between May and September. This program provides weekly E. coli level results for the river and stream sites.
The surface water program is a consortium of local and state agencies that have a strong interest in the protection of Ingham County’s water resources. The consortium consists of the following: City of Lansing, City of East Lansing, City of Mason, Delhi Township, Meridian Township, City of Williamston, Michigan State University, Ingham County Conservation District, Tri-County Regional Planning District, and EGLE.
For more information on the surface water program, please contact the Environmental Health office at (517) 887-4312.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is E. coli?
E. coli bacteria live in the digestive systems of humans and other warm blooded animals. Therefore, they are found in sewage and other wastewater. Most strains are not dangerous, but they can indicate the presence of other disease-causing bacteria.
2. How do the bacteria get in the water?
There are a variety of sources that contribute bacteria to our surface waters. These include:
• Illicit waste connections to storm sewers or roadside ditches
• Malfunctioning septic systems
• Combined and sanitary sewer overflows
• Storm (rain) runoff
• Wild and domestic animal waste (especially goose droppings)
• Agricultural runoff
3. What are the risks associated with bacteria in the water?
Swimming in unsafe water may result in minor illnesses such as sore throats or diarrhea. It may also result in more serious illnesses that can last a longer period of time. Children, the elderly and persons with weakened immune systems are at greater risk for illness when they come into contact with contaminated water.
4. How are the rivers sampled?
Ingham County currently has 21 river and stream sites that are sampled weekly from May through September. Each sampling event consists of three samples taken (Left, Right, and Center) in order to get an average E. coli value for the water body. The samples are then taken to the Board of Water and Light Laboratory for analysis.
5. How do I know if it’s safe to use the river?
You are the best person to decide when and if it is safe to use the river at a particular location. Our changing weather means that river conditions can vary throughout the day and from day to day. It is a good idea to avoid swimming in lakes and rivers for 48 hours following a heavy rain.
Check our 2019 sampling results at the top of the page. To be considered safe for total body contact (ex. Swimming) the daily geometric mean must be below 300 E. coli per 100 mL. To be considered safe for partial body contact (ex. Kayaking) the daily geometric mean must be below 1000 E. coli per 100 mL.
Here are a few additional recommendations for deciding when and where it’s safe to use the river:
• Check the weather! Don't swim or use the river for 2 days after heavy rains
• Watch for "signs" of water pollution such as discolored water, fast flowing and strong smelling drains and/or street litter floating in water
• Avoid river use next to drain openings or outlets
• Check for pollution warning notices
• Swim only in areas designated as "swim areas"
Click Here Michigan Environment, Great Lakes & Energy (EGLE) Inland Lake and Stream Information