Do you know the quality of the water at your favorite swimming place?
Rivers, ponds, lakes and streams may contain disease-causing microorganisms. Swimming in these waters may result in health effects such as minor skin rashes, sore throats, diarrhea or more serious problems.
Children tend to spend more time in the water than adults. They are also more likely to accidentally swallow water when swimming and, for this reason, they are more likely than adults to get sick. However, infants, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems are most at risk of becoming seriously ill.
- How often should swimming water be tested?
- What is swimming water tested for?
- When should water samples be taken?
- Where should water samples be taken?
- What does the E. coli test result mean?
- When should the swimming area be closed?
- How can I order test kits?
- Where can I get more information?
- Get PDF version
The Health Department recommends that swimming water at town beaches and other public recreational areas be tested at least once a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Additional testing may be warranted after periods of heavy rain when swimming areas are more likely to be flooded by runoff. People who have a pond or private swimming area on their own property should test for water quality periodically throughout the summer months.
Water samples should be taken at the peak times and at the most popular locations for swimming – in other words, where and when the people are. Once the sample is taken, deliver or mail it to the laboratory as soon as possible. Testing should be done within 30 hours after the sample is collected, so if you mail the sample, use first class or overnight delivery. Because conditions can change quickly, testing early in the week leaves time to take follow-up samples in the same week if first results show high levels of bacteria not suitable for swimming.
The Vermont Department of Health Laboratory swimming water test kit is called ‘Kit SW’ and costs $15. This includes bottle, instructions, paperwork, insulated container and the cost of analysis. Samples are accepted Monday through Friday, 7:45 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Test results for samples submitted to the Health Department Laboratory on a Friday will normally not be available until the following Monday, unless special arrangements are made.
If the test result is greater than 235 E. coli / 100 mls (unsuitable), the Health Department recommends that the swimming area be closed and posted immediately. The beach area should stay closed, and not re-open until a follow-up test result confirms that the E. coli level has decreased to 235 E. coli / 100mls or below (suitable).
Follow-up samples should be taken at the same location as the original sample.
- To order a "Kit SW from the Vermont Department of Health Laboratory, call
1-800-660-9997 (within Vermont) or 802-863-7335. Payments can be made using a credit card or a check. Order forms can be requested from the Laboratory or found online.
For Your Town
Contact your town health officer with questions about your town’s public swimming area testing protocols or results. You can ask your town clerk for your town health officer’s contact information, or use the town health officer search tool at the Health Department’s website.