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Great Lakes Article:

Lake Forest Beach to be tested for contamination
By Lindsay Beller
Pioneer Press Online

Lake Forest Beach will serve as a testing ground for E. coli contamination this summer after a study released Monday found that seagull feces and human waste are the two most predominant sources of E. coli contamination in Lake Michigan.

The study was conducted by the Clean Water Trust Fund, a panel assembled by State Sen. Susan Garrett, D-29th of Lake Forest to study bacteria levels after numerous Lake County beach closures last summer.

Mark Pfister, an aquatic biologist with the Lake County Health Department, said the testing, called "swimcasting," will enable health officials to predict bacteria concentration levels using scientific equipment based on factors like sunlight, rainfall and wave action. E. coli levels are lower on sunny days because ultraviolet rays kill the bacteria, for example.

If concentrations are high, officials can determine whether to close a beach immediately rather than waiting for results for up to a day, which has been the typical waiting period.

"In the future, we'll be able to predict those days in which we're going to have high E. coli levels," said Pfister.

Lake Forest Beach was chosen along with Illinois Beach State Park as testing sites because they are two widely used beaches, he said. The $60,000 study will be funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Beach Act. Additional testing will be conducted in the summer of 2005.

The panel also made recommendations intended to reduce the number of seagulls at beaches, improve sanitary sewer connections and educate the public about the bacteria.

For example, beaches should have garbage cans with lids and provide trash removal twice a day.

Municipalities should monitor sanitary sewers and investigate ways to reduce sewage overflow into Lake Michigan in the event of a power failure. A July 2002 power outage caused the Lake Bluff pumping facility to release almost 300,000 gallons of untreated sewage in Lake Michigan.

Lake Forest has worked to improve the city's sanitary sewer system since 2001, said City Manager Bob Kiely. The city budgeted $10 million over the next three years to continue to work on the problem, he said.

Garrett raised more than $25,000 to fund this study after a 2002 study found that seagull feces were the primary cause of high bacteria levels and beach closings. Garrett found that study was flawed citing inadequate exploration of other pollution sources and conducting water tests when there were no beach closures.

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