Wisconsin gives reason to hope for
beaches in Illinois
By Gary Wisby
An expanding beach testing program in Wisconsin will give
beaches in the Chicago area a better chance of staying
open, a Lake Michigan watchdog group said Tuesday.
Last summer, Wisconsin began testing nearly two dozen
Lake Michigan beaches for dangerous levels of E. coli
bacteria at least five times a week. It has just expanded
the list to include 10 popular inland beaches.
The additional testing is important because E. coli bacteria
ride southerly lake currents to contaminate beaches in
Chicago, the Lake Michigan Federation maintains.
Chicago banned swimming at its beaches 130 times last
year, and there were 178 beach closings in Lake County.
"Any changes that Wisconsin makes for more consistent
testing help us get a more accurate view on how the public
is able to use the lake," said Cameron Davis, the
federation's executive director.
In a related development, the U.S. Court of Appeals in
Chicago heard arguments last week in a lawsuit by the
federation against the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage
The district has pumped 1 billion gallons of raw sewage
into Lake Michigan since 1995. Joined by the Friends of
Milwaukee's Rivers, the federation seeks harsher state
penalties and a phasing out of the discharges. The two
environmental groups are appealing a dismissal of their
suit by a federal judge in Milwaukee last September.
The judge found that the state had "diligently"
enforced the law against the sewerage agency.
That finding was partly based on the fact that "at
the last minute, the state filed suit against Milwaukee,"
Davis said. "The intent was shielding Milwaukee from
our lawsuit. The state didn't do anything until it was
Davis was encouraged by last week's hearing. "The
court seemed to understand the issues and take the discharges
seriously," he said.
Wisconsin has told the sewerage agency it must complete
nearly $1 billion in overflow reduction projects and other
programs by 2010.