Earlier today, Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes Conway and Dane County Executive Joe Parisi official unveiled the “clean beach corridor” at Warner Park Beach. The clean, safe swimming area is part of an ongoing project to keep beaches open and free of algae blooms during the summer months.
“In other areas, we’ve seen anywhere between a 75 to a 90% reduction in the days that the beaches are closed because the system works so well,” says Executive Parisi.
The corridor, insulated from the rest of Lake Mendota, will continuously filter water without the use of chemicals. It’ll filter out blue-green algae, a frequent cause of beach closures during the summer.
“The amazing thing about these clean beach corridors is how they can fend off algae even in peak periods of nearby blooms. That makes sure that families can have a safe and free place to go swimming, even in the height of summer,” says Mayor Rhodes-Conway.
Similar systems are slated to come to beaches in coming years. Officials picked Warner Park Beach now due to ongoing construction, and to increase options for Northside residents.
“We really wanted to use an equity lens in choosing where to put this opportunity for families to swim. We really wanted to focus on the Northside, and make sure that Northside families have a free opportunity to go swimming that will be safe all summer long. We’re going to continue to look at that equity lens as we look around the city and continue to choose future beaches,” says Mayor Rhodes-Conway.
The heart of the filtration system is a pump that filters 100 gallons of water per minute. John Reimer is a water engineer for Dane County. He designed the filtration system used to eliminate harmful algae from entering the corridor.
“The filtration equipment removes heavy solids through a strainer, then it goes through a sand filter to remove algae and finer particles, and then it goes through a UV filter that removes pathogens and other bacteria. After that, the clean water comes back into the center of the swimming area, where kids like to swim,” says Reimer.
Dane County covered the $90,000 cost of creating the corridor. The City of Madison invested $700,000 dollars towards a new shelter at Warner Park and pays for operational costs.
The filtration system will be mostly powered by solar panels. The corridor is open now, along with a similar corridor at Bernie’s Beach Park on Monona Bay. There are several other clean water corridors around Dane County: Mendota County Park in Middleton and in Goodland County Park in McFarland. And a beach at Tenney Park is slated to get its own corridor in 2024.
For all other beaches, though, make sure to check water conditions before you go to make sure they’re not closed due to unsafe levels of E. coli and blue-green algae. These can make people and pets sick in unsafe amounts.
You can find which beaches are closed here. And, says Public Health Madison Dane County, never swim in water that looks like “pea soup”, green or blue paint, or that has a scum layer or puffy blobs floating on the surface.