has most Lake Michigan beaches without monitoring for
taint of sewage David Poulson Lansing Bureau
of the nine Lake Michigan-bordered counties that do not
regularly monitor public beaches for sewage contamination
are in Michigan, according to a report released today.
Wisconsin has the only
other county without regular testing of Lake Michigan
beaches, said Laurel O'Sullivan, spokeswoman for the Chicago-based
Lake Michigan Federation, a regional environmental group.
Indiana and Illinois
are the other states bordering Lake Michigan.
The number of Lake Michigan
beach closings in Michigan hit 15 during the past year,
up from 14 the previous year, despite a small decrease
in monitored counties. The four states combined for 897
Lake Michigan closings, the highest number since the federation
began compiling the statistics in 1996.
Wisconsin had 396 closings,
more than double the 156 in 2001, and Illinois had 427
compared with 339 the previous summer. Indiana dropped
to 61 from the 92 reported the previous year.
"Michigan is staying
steady," O'Sullivan said. "I think, however, without more
comprehensive testing that it's going to be hard to determine
exactly where Michigan is with beach health."
Beach closings result
from sewage exposure and how aggressively health authorities
monitor. Weather can make them fluctuate year to year:
Heavy rains create sewer overflows, and extended warm
temperatures speed the production of harmful bacteria
that can sicken swimmers.
Despite the monitoring
gap, the federation credited Michigan for having the region's
best potential solution for addressing sewer problems
that lead to the closings. Next Tuesday Michigan voters
consider authorizing a $1 billion bond sale to finance
low-interest loans for statewide sewer improvements.
"I think it provides
a good model for other states to look to," O'Leary said.
"It's exactly the kind of thing smaller communities with
tight budgets can use to curb these problems."
State and local officials
had hoped to close the gap on beach monitoring around
the state with funding from the Clean Michigan Initiative,
a $675 million bond voters approved in 1998 for a variety
of environmental purposes.
Although $150,000 in
grants had been earmarked for the effort last summer,
treasury officials decided not to sell the bonds for fear
of endangering the state's credit rating.
Just as local officials
were gearing up for the height of swimming season, the
state canceled the money, said Anne Brasie, director of
the Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay, a nonprofit agency
that in 2001 worked with local health officials to monitor
Lake Michigan beaches in Grand Traverse, Benzie and Leelenau
A repeat of a program
that used bond money the previous year was canceled when
the funding fell through.
"The unfortunate part
is with that short of a notice you can't pull $25,000
out of a hat," Brasie said.
Whether Clean Michigan
Initiative money will be available next summer is uncertain
in light of the state's tight fiscal circumstances, said
Dennis Bush, a Department of Environmental Quality toxicologist.
But Michigan has landed a $280,000 U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency grant that can be use to monitor Great
The federation reported
that public beaches on Lake Michigan are not regularly
monitored in Oceana, Mason, Manistee, Delta, Menominee,
Benzie, Leelenau and Mackinaw counties. Counties that
regularly monitor Lake Michigan beaches are Ottawa, Allegan,
Berrien, Grand Traverse, Van Buren, Charlevoix, Emmet
and Antrim. Many counties without regular programs do
monitor when they suspect a sewer problem.
The group reported these
Lake Michigan beach closings in Michigan for the past
Allegan County: Westside
County Park for one day.
Berrien County: Warren
Dunes State Park, Weko Beach, Jean Klock Park and Tiscornia
Park for one day each.
Grand Traverse County:
West End Beach, Bryant Park and Clinch Park Beach were
closed for two days each.
Van Buren County:
Covert Park was closed for four days.
Contact David Poulson at (517) 487-8888 or e-mail him at
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