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,"
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
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.