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Contamination closes beach three times this spring

June 10, 2002,
Detroit Free Press

ST. CLAIR SHORES, Mich. (AP) -- Memorial Park's 100-foot beach is the only one in the Detroit area where swimming has been banned this year because of contamination.

The beach already has been closed three times because of high E. coli bacteria levels.

University of Michigan scientists said the bacteria is coming from the Hetchler Drain, The Detroit News reported in a Monday story. A computer model of water currents and wind directions has shown that west wind blew contaminated water from the storm sewer into Memorial Park.

"We showed that the (contaminant) came from just south of Memorial Park and was blown into the beach area," naval architecture and marine engineering professor Guy Meadows said.

"That was our smoking gun."

Remote control cameras may have to be sent into the drain to determine the cause of the high E. coli levels.

Cameras could look for illicit connections to the sewer or other culprits, Macomb Water Quality Board Chairman Doug Martz said.

"Something has to be wrong," he said. "We thought this was fixed.

"Years ago, they sent cameras into the drain because of high bacteria counts and they found an apartment building that had its sanitary sewer line tied into the Hetchler Drain," Martz said. The sewer line was disconnected.

Health officials said exposure to high levels of the E. coli can cause skin rashes, intestinal problems or diarrhea.

Steve Washburn and his family haven't swam at Memorial Park in eight years.

"The gate guard warned us not to go near the water," Washburn said. "It's scary and sad that things had to turn out like this."

Memorial Park beach was closed to swimming three times last year, 10 times in 2000 and twice in 1999.

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