New water panel to study beaches
By Joanna Pluta
Pioneer Press Illinois
Several state and county health officials will collaborate
on a new study of bacteria at Lake County's Lake Michigan
beaches - a phenomenon that forced more than 200 beach
closings last summer.
A study, organized by the Lake County Health Department
and funded by the North Shore Sanitary District last fall,
determined that sea gull feces was the primary source
of bacteria at four Lake Michigan beaches. But state Sen.
Susan Garrett, D-29th, criticized the methods of an off-season
study that measured bacteria when E. coli levels were
not high enough to close the beaches.
Garrett of Lake Forest has since recruited a new Water
Testing Review Panel to establish criteria and oversee
a second wave of testing at five Lake Michigan beaches
during their busiest season.
"We're taking a very aggressive stance," she
said. "There is no disagreement whatsoever that nothing
is more important than ensuring the public's health when
it comes to our water."
Garrett has already received one proposal from a Miami
company for a new round of water testing in July. Further
proposals will be solicited, but early costs estimates
reflect a price tag between $16,000 and $26,000 for the
Tests at five Lake Michigan beaches will compare the
DNA in beach water bacteria to that in human and animal
waste, and also examine how runoff from storm sewers and
ravines may affect bacteria levels at the Lake Forest
and Highland Park beaches. The five testing sites have
not been determined, but Garrett said a Cook County beach
may be included.
Garrett has established a trust fund at the First Bank
of Highland Park, 1835 First St. Her office will solicit
donations from municipalities, environmental organizations
and local residents.
Contributions to The Clean Water Trust Fund should be
forwarded to: The Office of State Sen. Susan Garrett,
425 N. Sheridan Road, Highwood, IL, 60040. More information
is available by calling Garrett's office at (847) 433-2002.
Until the study is complete, beachfront municipalities
are working to minimize the existing problem. Public education
efforts will remind beach visitors to dispose of trash
in covered containers and not to feed waterfowl.
The Lake Michigan Federation has published a "Prescription
For Healthy Beaches," available at its Web site,