DNR Presents Beach Testing Plan
Green Bay News-Chronicle
Aside from casting a ballot on election day, citizens
rarely get the chance to be part of the decision-making
process when it comes to government spending.
night, a score of local residents gathered at the Central
Brown County Library to help state officials decide how
federal funds will be allocated to monitor beaches along
the Lake Michigan and Green Bay coast.
four-hour open house, representatives from the state Department
of Natural Resources unveiled a new plan for monitoring
E. coli levels at public beaches throughout Wisconsin
with the aid of local health departments. Beaches across
the area were closed this summer when E. coli levels were
too high for safe swimming.
The aim of
the public hearing was to help DNR officials decide which
coastal areas should receive priority funding under the
new program, scheduled to take effect this summer.
goal is "to identify all the beaches on the Great Lakes
and categorize them as high, medium or low priority based
on usage and the potential for contamination," said Toni
Glymph, a toxicologist for the DNR. A second open house
will be held today from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Sturgeon
Bay High School commons.
The DNR plan
will meet the expectations of a new law passed by the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in October 2000.
The federal law requires states to develop guidelines
for local health agencies in monitoring the safety of
recreational waters. To accomplish that, the DNR will
receive $238,000 in annual grant money to distribute among
local governments that voluntarily participate in the
public meeting, Glymph gave a short overview of the monitoring
program, outlining how, when and where beach testing would
the new guidelines would prevent beaches from being prematurely
closed because of inaccurate testing methods.
"In the past,
people would just go out and take a sample in the middle
(of the waters)," Glymph said. "Now we'll be doing cross
sections ... because you can have one area that's really
high, then go 2 feet away and find nothing."
will regulate all aspects of the testing process, including
collection methods and time limits for processing samples.
News of a
more uniform testing system came as a relief to many citizens
who attended the Wednesday night meeting, several of whom
voiced concerns about how beach closings have affected
like to have (contamination levels) be public knowledge,
but at the same time not do it in a way that's all doom
and gloom," said Jeanne Agneessens, a Green Bay business
woman and Washington Island homeowner.
said she would like to see the School House Beach on Washington
Island be placed on the DNR's priority list.
DNR plan, high-traffic areas such as the tourist beaches
of Door County would be monitored on a daily basis, whereas
lesser used beaches would be tested on a weekly or case-by-case
want to hear from the public is (whether) there's a beach
that's used a lot," Glymph said. "If no one's using it,
we don't want to put the funding there; we'd rather put
the funding where people are using the beaches."
residents felt that Door County deserves the greatest
attention, others were more concerned about the Green
Ranney of Green Bay said she would like to see high-risk
areas along both Brown and Door County monitored.
they should do some of the testing in the boat dock areas,
where the big yachts are," Ranney said, adding that additional
testing should be done in areas where tidal patterns tend
to trap contaminants.
anxious to see the shoreline of Green Bay more carefully
watched is James Iverson of Luxemburg. Iverson, an environmental
lab employee, said frequent monitoring would help public
health officials identify sources of pollution.
it's going to help give (counties) a good idea of where
the sources are coming from," Iverson said.
If any theme
emerged at the open house, it was a general desire to
determine the cause of water contamination.
Glymph stressed to residents that locating the source
of high bacteria counts is only a fringe benefit, and
not the main focus of the monitoring program.
funding is very specific to just monitoring and public
notification," Glymph said. "But we hope that by taking
some of the financial burden off local health departments,
maybe they can use their funds to identify some sources
funding, the DNR must introduce a system for publicizing
communication methods proposed by the DNR were an expanded
Web site, a telephone hotline and better marked signage
at closed beaches.
simply closing down any beach that shows a trace of bacteria,
the DNR plan would distinguish between degrees of contamination,
issuing health advisories in areas with lesser E. coli
counts while closing down beaches that present a real
the DNR will use the feedback from the open houses to
revise its beach monitoring plan, which must be submitted
to the EPA by March. After the plan is finalized, the
DNR will hold another open hearing session to solicit