ALLEGAN COUNTY, Mich. — Water levels have been rising since May, and they are predicted to continue to increase into July. The high water levels are creating concern, because it can increase the risk for Electric Shock Drowning (ESD).
ESD occurs when swimmers are exposed to electric currents in the water. The currents can be made by faulty or compromised electrical wiring on boats or docks and most often occurs in fresh water.
"More and more they're finding that possibly ESD has caused the heart to stop and that's how they drown," Greg Janik the Fire Chief of Saugatuck said.
Both Allegan and Ottawa Counties have sent out alerts over ESD, but there have been no known cases it this year. The Saugatuck Fire Department has been working with businesses in Allegan County to cut the power to breakers near the water, clear the area of any loose wires and test the water for electric current.
"They'll buy a meter, and it will test for millivolts in the water, any little amounts of current. They call it stray current," Janik said.
According to Janik, at least five areas in Allegan County have tested positive for electric current. While he would not specify the areas, he said marinas and business owners in Saugatuck and its surrounding areas have been very cooperative with the preventative measures.
"If you're taking a bath and you drop a toaster or whatever in there, it's not a good thing to do," Jim Bieke, owner of The River Market in Saugatuck explained. "Same idea, same principle."
Janik urges swimmers and boaters to speak with the lakeside businesses around them about testing their water and or about the safety of the water before getting in.
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