Since 2003 the Door County Health Department has partnered with UW-Oshkosh and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to conduct testing at the county's beaches to make sure the water's safe for swimming.
But Door County Health Director Rhonda Kolberg says the future of the testing was cast into doubt when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency pulled funding for the program.
Kolberg says the EPA provided about $56,000 a year to foot the bill for the testing and the county is now trying to come up with funds to keep it going.
Kolberg says with contributions so far from the DNR, UW-Oshkosh, Door County Visitor Bureau and funds set aside in the Health Department budget it looks like they will be able to keep the program going this year in some capacity, although she says testing may begin a week later and sampling at some beaches may not be done quite as often.
Kolberg says the county also has sent letters to each of the 19 municipalities in the Door County Tourism Zone asking for support.
The Village of Egg Harbor, for example, has committed $1,000 to the cause. Egg Harbor Village Administrator Josh Van Lieshout says healthy beaches mean healthy people and both are critical to the success of the tourism industry.
"It is unacceptable to have residents and visitors go to a public beach and involuntarily be exposed to bacteria that can make them ill," says Van Lieshout. "Not testing and not advising the public, residents and visitors alike, could leave the wrong kind of Door County impression. Too many people have worked too hard to let that happen."
Kolberg says UW-Oshkosh has been a key partner in the program. She says UWO students live in Door County during the summer to conduct the testing.
The beach testing started in 2003, one year after there was an illness outbreak involving swimmers at Nicolet Bay Beach. Kolberg says since the testing was initiated the county hasn't had an outbreak related to swimming at a beach.
Testing is done at 34 public beaches in the county. Updates are available online at http://www.wibeaches.us/ and via phone.
Kolberg says if the county receives the needed funding they're hoping to start this year's testing the week after Memorial Day.