The City of Racine Public Health Department Laboratory conducts physical, chemical, and microbiological assessments on stormwater infrastructure, coastal beaches, inland lakes, and tributaries in an effort to protect human and environmental health. Regulatory monitoring assessments use statutory thresholds and recommended guidelines to determine overall quality and risk to the public.
Root River & Municipal Stormwater Outfall Assessments
Weekly monitoring of the main stem of the Root River occurs at six locations, starting at Johnson Golf Course and ending near the mouth of the river, just downstream of the Main Street Bridge. Samples are also collected from 10 stormwater outfalls discharging into the river in proximity to these locations as part of the City of Racine's municipal stormwater monitoring program. The WI Department of Natural Resources (WI DNR) requires municipalities with a population greater than 10,000 to reduce polluted stormwater runoff by implementing stormwater management programs with best management practices (see WI DNR MS4 permit). Routine and investigative monitoring help to identify potential sources of pollution.
In addition to monitoring, the Public Health Department Laboratory engages residents and businesses in reducing illicit discharges into stormwater infrastructure (i.e. inlet grates). Educational decals have been placed on inlet grates that drain to the Root River or Lake Michigan to inform residents of "No Dumping". In addition to the decals, door hangers or postcards were distributed to residences located in stormwater basins that drain directly to Lake Michigan.
Below are examples of publications and presentations related to the Root River/stormwater component of the environmental and assessment program.
Baseline Assessment of Water Quality in support of the Root River Restoration Plan, 2014
Capturing microbial sources distributed in a mixed use watershed within an integrated environmental modeling workflow, 2007.
Racine Health Department Laboratory Takes a Comprehensive Approach to Beach Health, 2016
Combined Use of Physical/Morphological, Chemical, and Microbial Parameters to Assess Stream Health - Root River, 2009
Guiding remediation along the Root River through the use of an integrated source tracking program, 2010
A systematic framework to identify and prioritize sources of bacteria, 2017
City of Racine Public Beaches
Regulatory monitoring of City of Racine designated public beaches takes place from roughly Memorial Day to Labor Day. Water samples are collected by Laboratory personnel up to five days per week, Monday through Friday, based on the WI DNR priority designation for each location. In addition to testing the water for E. coli (a type of normal intestinal bacteria), a variety of weather and environmental data is also collected using the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) beach sanitary survey tool for the Great Lakes to aid in understanding fluctuating E. coli levels.
Determining the amount of E. coli in a water sample typically takes 18-24 hours, depending on the laboratory method used. This results in a beach action being taken after the fact. Rapid lab-based methods and mathematical models based on weather and environmental data allow beach action decisions to be made within two to three hours of sample collection, preventing exposure when the risk is high.
In 2012, the City of Racine Public Health Department Laboratory became the first agency in the US to be given approval to use a rapid, DNA-based laboratory test, called quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) to measure E. coli in water samples collected from North and Zoo Beaches. This faster lab test provides same day water quality results for the public.
Results of the E. coli test are interpreted using regulatory beach action thresholds set by WI DNR and the appropriate, state-approved beach action signage posted at the beach. Beach status explanations are found below.
Beach Status Explanations
Examples of publications and presentations related to the recreational water quality monitoring component of the environmental monitoring and assessment program are listed below.
Healthy Beaches Action Guide - How You Can Help Your Great Lakes Shoreline
Recreational Water Quality at Three Coastal Municipal Parks: Racine, WI. 2010-2012
Kinzelman, J. Sanitary Surveys: From Data to Implementation. GLBA. October 16, 2012
Kinzelman, J. Beach Management 101 - Beach Sanitary Surveys. USEPA National Beaches Conference. Huntington Beach, CA. April 19, 2009
For More Information
US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA)
US Geological Survey (USGS)
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
WI Department of Natural Resources (WI DNR)