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New Mandeville beach is open, but bacteria keeping people out of the water

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MANDEVILLE, LA (WVUE) -

Mandeville's mayor wants the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation to conduct more tests around a new beach now open for business. But as bacterial levels continue to spike, the foundation worries that proposed federal budget cuts could be a problem.

The beach is open, but fecal coliform levels are 10 times higher than they are anywhere else on the lake, and people are concerned.

"They might play on the beach, but they won't get in the water at all," said Lacombe mom Tiffany Dotson as her kids frolicked on the beach nearby.

Mayor Donald Villere supported putting the beach in because he thought it would be a great recreational feature in his city, but he wants to make sure the water is safe for swimming.

"I did call John Lopez (with the foundation) and said can we set up more testing sites," Villere said.

"Yes it's definitely a possibility. We're pleased about this," Lopez said.

But there's a problem. Much of the successful effort to clean Lake Pontchartrain relied on federal dollars. Now the lake foundation officials worry that president Trump's proposed budget and 31 percent cuts to the EPA could hurt.

"Maybe 30 percent of the money either comes directly or is administered by the EPA," said Lopez.

Fecal coliform levels along Bayou Castine were running at 2,000 on Thursday. Most spots on the lake are below 200.

"It's actually up and that's a concern," said Lopez.

People are worried that it could be coming from any number of sources, including old sewer pipes, septic systems or even boat discharges.

"They need to get to the bottom of what's causing it. That side of the lake always has higher levels," said Andy Jones with Wicked Fishing Charters.

Additional tests on the bayou could cost the foundation between $5,000 and $10,000 a year, and they are eager to begin trying to figure out a solution to the problem.

"You have to do it over time to figure out the whole story," said Lopez.

Villere is now asking his public works director to investigate all pipes.

"We want to look at water infiltration and anything that might discharge from the city into the bayou," said Villere.

"Water quality concerns me the most. You can look at it and see it's not clean," said Dotson.

In the meantime, the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation is hoping that people will swim on the beach. They say the current bacteria spike shouldn't last, but if it does they say they will put up warning signs in their effort to keep people safe.

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