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E-Coli Forces Closure of Bender Park Beach

It's unknown when beach will reopen; officials say weather key in fixing problem.

In the middle of a stretch of unrelenting heat, the beach at has been closed due to high levels of E. coli.

The Oak Creek Health Department posted signs about the closure last week, though that hasn't stopped people from continuing to swim and sunbathe on the beach, Health Officer Judi Price said. E. coli is a bacteria that can cause serious infections.

Price urged residents to heed warnings and not use the beach until the area can be cleaned up, despite the constant 90-degree temperatures that have left people needing a place to cool off.

Price said she wasn't sure when the beach would reopen. The Oak Creek and South Milwaukee health departments are monitoring the water and have tested it each day except for Sunday. Results come back the following day.

But much is out of the health department's hands and depends on the weather—some rain and wind would be a good start to alleviating problems. Officials have worked with the Milwaukee County Parks Department to clear up what they can.

Contributing to the problem are large amounts of foul-smelling algae on the beach's shore. Seagulls fly in and eat the algae, then leave feces, which contain E. coli.

"It's a constant, vicious cycle," Price said.

Milwaukee County Supervisor Steve Taylor said he hopes the beach can reopen soon.

"We would love to have it open in this heat, so Oak Creek and surrounding communities can use Lake Michigan," he said.

The E. coli is another problem to hit Bender Park. Last month, Taylor said the county near the boat launch, just one year after a $280,000 dredging project. 

Jan Massie July 03, 2012 at 12:57 PM
Is anyone being held accountable for the $280,000 job that wasn't done correctly? Are the contractors, going to redo what they didn't do right, the first time? Or are there other factors involved. After discussing with other residents maybe a honor box should be put in the boat launch to facilitate with paying for it's upkeep. $5.00 to launch and $200 fine if you don't have a ticket in your vehicle. The police patrol that area enough and I think $5.00 is a fair price that anyone owning a boat would pay.
Connie Ploch July 03, 2012 at 01:39 PM
@ Jan - there is a boat launch fee, and a fine for not paying to launch. Too bad about the closure--especially during this week of many vacationing families due to the holiday week. Be SAFE and take precautions if you choose to visit or launch there!
Sally Johns July 03, 2012 at 03:39 PM
We pay so many taxes in wisconsin you would think that this beach could be in good shape for the tax payers to be able to use. Clean up the beach. I run and walk down by the beach daily and the toxic smell is so unbearable. Also why can't we finish the project of the seven bridges in Grant Park. The last bridge close to the water front is still out and it has become such a hazard. Someone is going to get hurt and the county will have a problem.
Mark B July 03, 2012 at 05:16 PM
As far as the algae and the closed beach, there's not really a lot that can be done. The algae is growing in far bigger numbers and at greater depths due to the fact that the lake is clearer because of the filtering by zebra and quagga muscles thus allowing sunlight to penetrate to deeper depths. We need some steady West winds to help clear the algae off the beach. As far as the boat launch and the entrance to the south becoming silted in, that's a design flaw that is going to take big bucks to correct.

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