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Great Lakes Article:

State beach testing to increase
Manitowoc Herald Times

FISH CREEK-Swimmers could see a record number of warning signs posted at beaches along Wisconsin’s Great Lakes shoreline this summer because of a new, more extensive program to monitor water quality.

The Department of Natural Resources has identified 24 “high-priority” swimming areas along Lake Michigan for testing five times a week. That program began last weekend.

Door County has 13 of the high-priority beaches. Another 13 beaches in the county will be tested twice a week.

Only the peninsula’s state-owned beaches, like Peninsula State Park’s Nicolet Bay, were tested regularly last year, and that was only once a week.

The changes to the monitoring program come after numerous reports last summer of fouled beaches in Door County and a record number of warnings at three Milwaukee beaches South Shore, Bradford and McKinley because of high levels of E. coli bacteria.

The Great Lakes initiative is Wisconsin’s first uniform method for measuring water quality at beaches on Lake Michigan and Lake Superior and for notifying people when swimming might not be safe.

Officials say this year’s testing will provide loads of data but may not pinpoint why certain beaches suddenly make people sick.

There’s no single answer, said Paul Biedrzycki, director of Milwaukee’s division of disease control and prevention.

Most beach closings are caused by harmful microorganisms found in untreated sewage, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Untreated storm water runoff from cities and farm fields is another contamination source.

The cause of Wisconsin’s beach problems is not clear.

With more testing this summer, posted beaches could become a familiar sight.

You may see more signs posted, but that doesn’t mean the water is worse, said Toni Glymph, a DNR environmental toxicologist. “We’re just going to be testing more.

Greg Kleinheinz, a microbiologist at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, agrees.

My feeling is that there is not a big problem, he said. “I think that we would have known if there was a huge problem in the past because a large number of people would have gotten sick.”

The business community is behind the new testing, even if it means beach closures, said Rhonda Kolberg, Door County’s public health director.

They understand it is a problem we have to address,” she said.

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