Grass-colored waves lapped against the shore Thursday at Maumee Bay State Park, where about a dozen beachgoers flocked on a hot and sunny afternoon.
No one was wearing a swimsuit. Nobody entered the water or dared to dip in a toe. Instead, folks were there to check out the water from dry land. They wanted to see the thick algal blooms that have contaminated western Lake Erie — and in the process garnered national attention — with their own eyes.
The water looked like “pea soup,” said Toledoan Jo Luke near the middle of the beach. “We had to come and see it.”
Closer to the water, Bob Deckard of Fostoria said he thought the water resembled oil paint, “like something Bob Ross would use,” he joked, referring to the artist who was the creator and host of the PBS show Joy of Painting.
A bright orange sign on the beach carried a message of caution. “WARNING. High levels of algal toxins detected. Swimming and wading are not recommended for the very young, the very old, or those with compromised immune systems.”
Another poster relayed more detailed information.
The Lake Erie beach has been under a “recreational public health advisory” since July 23, according to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.
A second, more severe advisory level — a “no-contact advisory,” which comes with a red sign — advises all humans, and animals as well, to avoid any exposure to the water, even a quick splash.
No state park beaches are under a no-contact advisory, said Mark Bruce, the public information officer at the Ohio Department of National Resources. During both types of advisory periods, workers test the water for toxins.
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But testing is triggered and not continuous.
When employees or civilians spot potential algal blooms, officials test the water and continue to do so every week until normal conditions resume, Mr. Bruce said.
Those at Maumee Bay on Thursday weren’t taking their chances with the water, even at the lesser warning level.
“I’ve seen pictures online, but I didn’t realize it was that bad,” said Crystal Nolan of Oregon, who came to the beach with her infant son and his grandmother. “It’s disgusting.”
Ms. Luke concurred, expressing her skepticism at the safety of entering the water.
“The sign says don’t swallow [the water],” she said, reasoning, “so why would you swim in it?”
Contact Marissa Medansky at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6368.