The three Berrien County beaches that were closed Tuesday because of high E. coli levels – Warren Dunes, Cherry and Weko – were reopened Wednesday after retesting revealed bacteria levels had dropped.

The Van Buren/Cass Health Department reported Wednesday that South Beach in South Haven had high levels of E. coli contamination and they were advising that people avoid contact with the water, including wading and swimming. Additional samples were to be collected today, with the results available by noon Friday.

North Beach in South Haven remained open for swimmers, officials said.

The E. coli level at Warren Dunes Beach had dropped from the 500 per parts per milliliter found on Monday to 220 by the next day, below the level 300 at which a swimming ban is recommended. The levels at Cherry Beach in Chikaming Township dropped from 620 to 130, and the levels at Weko Beach in Bridgman went from 310 to 150.

E. coli levels usually fall quickly depending on the waves and currents and the source of the contamination. Last week, Cherry Beach was closed for several days because of a sewer line break.

Berrien County Health Department sanitarians check 14 area beaches weekly, usually on Monday, and retest the next day if bacteria levels are high. It takes between 18 and 24 hours to get test results.

E. coli can cause illness if the contaminated water is swallowed, such as vomiting and cramps. It is recommended that swimmers try to avoid swallowing the water, and those going into the lake should wash their hands before eating to avoid exposure.

The Michigan Beach Guard system, at www.deq.state.mi.us/beach, provides updates on water conditions and closings.

Contact: jmatuszak@TheHP.com, 932-0360, Twitter: @HPMatuszak