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Great Lakes Article:

DNR to continue beach monitoring
Kewaunee County might not take part in program
By Paul Brinkmann
Green Bay Press Gazette

OSHKOSH - The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is moving ahead with plans for next yearís statewide public beach monitoring program after analyzing the first yearís results.

County health and environmental officials met with DNR staff Thursday at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh to hash over the program and recommend changes for next year.

Wisconsinís program is part of a nationwide effort under the federal BEACH Act of 2000 to standardize testing in all shoreline communities.

In general, participants said they were pleased with the results despite some problems with budgets and public notification.

Only one of the 13 counties that tested beaches this summer was not represented at the meeting. Kewaunee County health director Mary Halada said she had scheduling conflicts, but she also told the DNR that Kewaunee may not participate next year.

"We hope everybody will participate next year and we hope the bumps we experienced this year will be eliminated," Toni Glymph, DNR toxicologist, said at the meeting.

The DNR released data Thursday for the entire summer of beach testing. The results show generally good water quality, with some problem areas, notably in Manitowoc, Kewaunee and Sheboygan counties.

Brown County beaches are the cleanest in the state for bacteria, showing not a single instance of bacteria over the federal limit of concern (235 colony-forming units per 100 milliliters).

Students from UW-Oshkosh sampled water for five counties. In Door County, they took 1,549 samples at 30 public beaches in the program. Only 63 samples, or 4 percent, showed bacteria over the federal limit.

The county issued 53 advisories for samples over the 235 level and 11 beach closures for samples that showed more than 1,000 colony forming units of bacteria per 100 milliliters of water.

Faculty and students from the universityís microbiology department ran in-depth analyses for the five counties they monitored under contract: Ashland, Bayfield, Door, Iron and Kewaunee.

Gregory Kleinheinz, assistant professor of microbiology, said his analysis doesnít fit with beliefs that rainfall sometimes causes a rise in bacteria levels, at least along the beaches of Lake Superior.

But the data is not conclusive, he said, because of many variables and the relative lack of rain this summer, which means any rain that does fall may just soak in.

Manitowoc Countyís 50 percent failure rate shocked local officials.

The cause of the high bacteria levels is unknown. Jim Blaha, health department director, said bacteria levels often spiked at several beaches simultaneously.

Although heís heard concerns about impact on tourism, Blaha said support for the program in Manitowoc is still present.

Holly Wirick, a representative of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Chicago, also attended the meeting. She said the Wisconsin program is one of the first in the country to actually implement testing for an entire season.

Glymph and the DNR are working to secure funding for next summerís testing. This yearís program was funded by the federal government for $225,670, an amount based on the shoreline population. Next year, Wisconsin could benefit more under a new formula based on beach miles.

In the meantime, the DNR will begin organizing public meetings to evaluate new notification methods about beach conditions, such as a telephone hotline for tourists to call.

"In general I think the DNR should be commended for coordinating this effort, bringing expertise to the table and leveraging so many resources," said Laurel OíSullivan, water quality manager for the nonprofit Lake Michigan Federation.

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