BRIDGTON — The town has instituted weekly water testing at its four public beaches to monitor for E. coli, according to Town Manager Robert Peabody. 

The testing at Bridgton’s Highland Lake Beach, Salmon Point Beach, Woods Pond Beach and Plummer’s Landing on Long Lake will take place each Wednesday, Peabody said, and will be followed up with a second test the next day if any fail the threshold for acceptable level of E. coli bacteria. 

“If we have a double fail, we will close the beach over the weekend,” said Peabody, who added that a beach would be re-opened when subsequent testing meets appropriate levels. 

According to Peabody, that acceptable level is 235, and that results when testing for the bacteria “can vary widely day to day.” 

“You don’t necessarily want to close on a single fail,” Peabody said. “We’re just trying to be as proactive as possible.” 

E. coli, or Escherichia coli, are a large and diverse group of bacteria present in the environment, food and intestines of both people in animals, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC says that “most strains of E. coli are harmless,” but others can cause illness including diarrhea, urinary tract infections, respiratory problems and pneumonia.

Peabody said each test costs the town $30, plus staff and travel time collecting the sample and taking it to the Paris Utility District, which conducts the testing. 

The town’s head custodian, Peter Dumont, has been taking the water samples in the same locations at each beach area, Peabody said.

“That way we make sure it’s taken from the same spot each time,” he added. 

The Highland Lake Beach was the first to be closed under the new testing regiment, when it was closed for a day on Tuesday, July 31, after failed tests on the previous Friday and Monday. 

The test results are generally available the day after they are brought to the Paris Utility District, which is not open over the weekend. 

The two failed tests at Highland Lake Beach have been the only failed tests under the new testing system as of Monday, Peabody said. 

The town instituted the weekly water testing at its public beaches after a separate issue at the town beach on Woods Pond, where the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that a slew of nearly 100 reported cases of illness in early July were caused by a norovirus outbreak.

Peabody said the bacteria testing will continue through Labor Day, and the town could look into conducting the testing next season as well. 

“Because we don’t know what causes E. Coli in the water, we just ask that people be respectful of their fellow beach users,” he stressed. 

Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.

The town of Bridgton has instituted weekly water testing at all four of its public beach areas. 

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