BEMUS POINT - Wednesday may not have been prime for a swim due to rainy weather, but five beaches continued to be closed anyway.
Heinz, Children's, College Pier and University beaches at Chautauqua Institution continued to be off-limits due to high levels of blue-green algae, according to the Chautauqua County Health Department. Lakewood Village Beach is closed due to elevated E. coli levels. Beaches shut down immediately, according to the health department, when lab test results indicate samples exceeding the water-level standards of the EPA.
Bill Boria of the county health department said that rain waters do influence the levels of blue-green algae in the water.
"When it rains, it washes phosphorus into the water," Boria said. "The nutrients that go into the water act as a fertilizer for the algae. So there's a correlation between the amount of rain and the amount of blue-green algae."
On a positive note, Boria said that the beach program manager collected toxin samples that are released by blue-green algae. Those levels came back safe. The lake's clarity, however, is still an issue.
Last Thursday, the Chautauqua County Health Department shut down the institution's four beaches along with Lakewood Village Beach and the Bemus Point Beach due to high levels of blue-green algae. The algae, according to the county health department, is a type of cyanobacteria that forms thick mats on the water surface. The algae ranges from gray to shades of yellow, green, blue or brown.
When bacteria levels become too high, the risk to human health from bacteria in the water becomes high.
Beaches will continue to be closed until the blue-green algae levels decrease.