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E-M:/ Michigan Beach Closings and Advisories more than double

August 8, 2001                                      Brad Wilson, Clean Water Fund, (810) 783-8900
                                                        Bethany Renfer, Clean Water Action, 517-203-0754
                                                        Morgan Sheets, PIRGIM, 734-662-6597
                                                        Elliot Negin or Elizabeth Heyd,                                                         Natural Resources Defense Council, 202-289-6868
Michigan Beach Closings and
Health Advisories More than Doubled

State Officials Turn Their Backs on
Federal Beach Monitoring Dollars

When it comes to beach monitoring, “the more you look, the more you find,” says the Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) 11th annual report about the status of U. S. beaches. Based upon the limited Michigan beach information available, Testing the Waters: A Guide to Beach Water Quality at Vacation Beaches, reports that the state’s beach closings and advisories more than doubled from 100 in 1999 to 276 in 2000. The greatest increases were in Macomb and Wayne Counties. Twenty-eight Great Lakes counties provided information on 182 beaches in 2000 and just under half (47 percent) are monitored at least once each week while 42 percent are not monitored at all.

“Michigan officials appear committed to a ‘don’t test so you don’t have to tell’ approach, which stands in sharp contrast to numerous other states that have strengthened their beach monitoring and public notification requirements,” said Brad Wilson, Macomb County Organizer for Clean Water Fund. “We urge state officials to distribute information describing the deplorable status of our monitoring and notification efforts to tourists and others to let them know they are swimming at their own risk.”

County health officials often cite the lack of funding as the primary excuse for their sparse monitoring efforts. However, just last week the Engler Administration turned its back on Michigan’s share of up to $10 million in federal funding for beach monitoring made available through last year’s passage of the Beaches Environmental, Assessment, and Coastal Health Act (B.E.A.C.H.) Act. “This refusal to apply for funds made available through the passage of the federal B.E.A.C.H. Act is an insult to Michigan taxpayers,” said Bethany Renfer, Michigan Program Coordinator for Clean Water Action. “Unless the Governor changes his mind, our tax dollars will now be put to work monitoring beaches in other states while we suffer the consequences at home. We are calling on Governor Engler to reverse his decision to turn down this assistance and to diligently pursue our fair share of the funds.”

“The EPA needs to put out strong standards for water quality monitoring and public notification, and Congress should fully fund these programs,” said PIRGIM Campaign Director, Morgan Sheets. Although President Bush proposed only $2 million for monitoring and public notification instead of the $30 million authorized in the B.E.A.C.H. Act, the U.S. House has approved $10 million for this program, and the measure awaits action by the U.S. Senate. “Further, we need to clean-up the sources of pollution damaging our waters. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration has already blocked two key new standards for cleaning up water pollution, and public health concerns demand that these standards be put into effect.” The administration has stopped rules dealing with sanitary sewer overflows and with clean-up of impaired waters.


A summary of the findings for Michigan’s beaches as of the report’s writing include:

·       The state has only recommended (not mandatory requirements) guidelines so beach-goers cannot rely on uniform health protection standards from beach to beach.

·       Ten counties that border the Great Lakes monitor all or most of their beaches at least once each week (Antrim, Bay, Berrien, Charlevoix, Macomb, Monroe, Ottawa, Sanilac, St. Clair, and Wayne). Mackinac monitors one Lake Huron beach once a quarter, and Alpena monitors 12 Lake Huron beaches once a year. Seventeen other counties do not monitor their Great Lakes or other Beaches (Alcona, Arenac, Benzie, Cheboygan, Delta, Emmet, Grand Traverse, Iosco, Leelanau, Manistee, Marquette, Menominee, Muskegon, Oceana, Presque Isle, Tuscola, and Van Buren). Three counties did not respond to this year’s survey (Allegan, Huron, and Chippewa). Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which is under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service (NPS), is not monitored by the NPS.

·       Twenty-eight Great Lakes counties provided information on 182 beaches in 2000. Just under half (47 percent) are monitored at least once each week while 42 percent are not monitored.

·       Local agencies in 11 Great Lakes counties report always or usually closing a beach or issuing an advisory for most or all of their reported beaches if samples exceed the standard (Alpena, Antrim, Bay, Berrien, Charlevoix, Mackinac, Macomb, Monroe, Ottawa, St. Clair, and Wayne). Sanilac requires resampling before closing a beach or issuing an advisory. Eighteen counties report notifying the public if a beach is closed or an advisory is issued, usually within 24 hours but some as long as 72 hours following a decision to take action.

·       Causes of closings/advisories were reported as:  Elevated bacteria due to stormwater or runoff (92%; 255 events); sewage (85%; 235 events); elevated bacteria of unknown origin (42%; 115 events); and pre-emptive rain advisories (3%; 8 events). [The sum exceeds 100% because more than one cause applies to each closing/advisory.]

“We’re seeing a much more realistic picture of the beach water pollution problem now that more states are monitoring and reporting, but we haven’t turned the corner on identifying the sources of pollution and preventing them in the first place,” said Sarah Chasis, NRDC senior attorney and director of the water and coastal program.

The full report can be
accessed at www.nrdc.org or www.pirg.org/reports/beaches.


PIRGIM is one of  Michigan’s leading non-profit, non-profit public interest advocacy groups. PIRGIM has more than 9,000  members across the state.

Clean Water Action is a §501(c)(4) citizens' organization with nearly 100,000 Michigan members has been in operation since 1971 working locally, statewide and nationally for clean, safe and affordable water; prevention of health-threatening pollution; creation of environmentally safe jobs and businesses; and empowerment of people to make democracy work.
www.cleanwateraction.org). East Lansing: 517-203-0754   Metro Detroit: 810-783-8900  Grand Rapids:  616-742-4084

Clean Water Fund (CWF) is a national §501(c)(3) research and education organization promoting the public interest since 1978. Nationally and in Michigan, CWF’s organizing, research, technical assistance, training, public outreach and education build on - and coordinate with - the work of Clean Water Action (CWA). (
East Lansing: 517-203-0758   Metro Detroit: 810-783-8900  Grand Rapids:  616-742-4084

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 500,000 members nationwide served from offices in New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and San Francisco. (