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Visitors float at Fontainebleau State Park beach in Mandeville, La., Monday, June 25, 2018. High counts for fecal coliform were found at the state park's beach along Lake Ponchartrain.

Many residents remember a time when Lake Pontchartrain wasn’t suitable for recreation. The first “no swimming” advisories came in 1962 due to excessive pollution, and by the late 1980s, advisories included the entire south shore and some rivers on the north shore. Since then, Pontchartrain Conservancy has worked to restore and preserve the Pontchartrain estuary as a healthy economic and recreational resource.

Sampling indicates water quality conditions have greatly improved since the advisories were first introduced. Since 2001, we have updated the public weekly with water quality conditions around Lake Pontchartrain through EPA-approved testing methods. To date, we have collected over 17,900 samples at 13 sites. Data overwhelmingly shows that the lake is suitable for recreation when using fecal coliform as a measure of pollution.

But it is also important to remember our lake and beaches are natural systems; they are not disinfected.

Toxic algae bloom may be developing in Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana Health Department warns

Additionally, improvements are not static; infrastructure ages and degrades. On the north shore, rapid growth has introduced a high volume of non-point source pollution into waterways. Monitoring the estuary for the last 20 years, we have been able to track trends and keep up with the latest monitoring technologies. We continue to collaborate with various stakeholders on both sides of the lake to preserve the basin’s water quality and integrity.

In August, we’re releasing Lake&Coast (iOS/Android), to provide the public with weekly water quality results to allow more informed decisions when it comes to swimming or boating, and will have greater insight into water quality throughout the basin.

Although the Lake Pontchartrain Basin continues to face environmental challenges, it has made a tremendous comeback. It’s the informed community, actively involved in the effort to restore and preserve the entire basin, that continues to make a difference.

BRADY SKAGGS JR.

water quality program director, Pontchartrain Conservancy

New Orleans