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Health Department



How We Monitor Beach Water Quality


We monitor water at La Crosse County area beaches for E. coli bacteria.  We do this to keep harmful bacteria from making you sick while you enjoy our lakes, streams, and beaches.

Beaches we monitor

  • Black River Beach
  • Pettibone Beach
  • Goose Island Beach
  • Bluebird Springs Campground
  • Airport Beach
  • Neshonoc Campground
  • Whispering Pines Campground
  • Lake Neshonoc Swarthout Park

What we test for

We test for E. coli bacteria.  The most common germs found in water are bacteria, viruses, or parasites from human or animal feces.  These germs can make you sick.  Testing for all the germs in the water that could make you sick is time consuming and expensive.  We test for Escherichia coli (E. coli) because it is the best indicator if there are germs in the water that can make you sick.

When we collect water samples

We collect water for E. coli testing at least once a week at each beach.  If bacteria levels are high, we close the beach for swimming.  We test again until the sample meets an acceptable bacteria level, then the beach can re-open for swimming.

Beach closures for swimming

A beach water quality closure means that the water is unsafe for swimming.  Closures happen when levels of E. coli or blue-green algae toxins are higher than safety limits.  For E. coli, this limit is 1,000 MPN/100 mL.  You can still enjoy the sandy area of the beach and other park facilities, but don't go in the water if the beach is closed for swimming.

Conditions can change quickly

Many things can affect water quality:  recent wind or rainy weather, time of day, birds and other wildlife at the beach, number of people at the beach.

Conditions can vary a lot through the day and from day-to day.  Always look at the water around you before you get in.  Conditions can change quickly, and a test result may not always reflect the current water quality. 

A few things to remember

  • You cannot always see or smell when water conditions are bad.
  • Avoid swimming after a heavy rainfall because bacteria levels in the water may be high.
  • People and pets should stay out of the water if there is a blue-green algae bloom, or the water is murky.
  • Blue-green algae blooms are usually blue-green in color, but can also be reddish-purple or brown.
  • Do not drink lake or river water.
  • Wash your hands before eating if you have been in the water.
  • Wash your pet after swimming.
  • Stay out of the water if signs say it is not safe for swimming.






Health Department Office Location
2nd Floor, 300 4th St. N.
La Crosse, WI 54601

Main Business Phone: 608-785-9872
[email protected]
In a public health emergency call 911
WI Relay Service and Interpretation Services Available

Office Hours: 8:00am to 4:30pm Monday-Friday; some service hours may vary

Collaboratively promoting a healthful community for all people.