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E-M:/ News Release: Michigan Beach Closings Down; Trend May Reverse


Clean Water Action News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, August 5, 2004

CONTACT:    Cyndi Roper, Clean Water Action (517) 490-1394 (cell)

Sarah Roberts, Clean Water Action (586) 783-8900  (cell) 586-909-6820

Bethany Renfer, Clean Water Action (517) 203-0754


Good News: Monitoring Up, Beach Closings Down in Michigan for 2003
Bad News: Trend Likely to Reverse Under Current Federal Policies

 Harrison Township, MI – Clean Water Action today released the Natural Resources Defense Council’s  “Testing the Waters: A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches” at Metropolitan Beach in Macomb County today.  The annual guide reports that nationwide there were more than 18,000 days of closures and advisories at ocean and Great Lakes beaches in 2003 – a national increase of 51 percent from 2002.  In contrast, the report provides good news that overall Michigan beaches saw fewer closings in 2003 than 2002. 

 The report warns, however, that Bush administration policies could quickly reverse this positive trend—a development that has prompted local residents on both sides of the state to mount petition drives opposing proposals to lower sewage treatment standards.  

 This year’s beach closing guide reported 93 days of closures and advisories along Michigan’s coastal beaches, a 56 percent decrease from the previous year. Elevated bacterial levels from unknown sources of contamination prompted all closures and advisories in Michigan.  New Baltimore and Memorial Park Beaches had the highest number of closings in the state with 36 and 13 days of closed beaches respectively. The number of beaches monitored at least once a week more than doubled from in 2003 rising from 83 in 2002 to 170 in 2003.

 While beach closings are up nationally, a commitment by Michigan voters and local communities to address outdated and decaying sewer infrastructure may be the reason that Michigan’s Great Lakes beach closings were down in 2003. In 2002, Michigan voters overwhelmingly indicated their support for cleaning up Michigan’s beaches when they approved a $1 billion Clean Water Bond to help meet funding demands to fix aging sewer infrastructure. Clean Water Bond dollars help provide required matching money in order to receive federal funding. But recently, the Bush administration reduced federal State Revolving Fund dollars by more than a third (about $500 million) below last year’s funding level, the largest cut of any environmental program. On average, that amounts to more than a $1 million cut for every congressional district significantly undercutting local efforts.

 In addition to funding cuts for sewer improvement projects, the Bush Administration is pushing forward a proposal to lower sewage treatment standards.  The policy would remove scheduled deadlines for sewer systems to eliminate their untreated or partially treated sewage discharges.  Experts estimate that this policy would make it a thousand times more likely swimmers near sewer outfalls would get sick. Oftentimes, beach-goers are unaware of their proximity to sewer outfalls. 

 Clean Water Action staff and volunteers are educating Michigan residents about these backward Bush Administration policies. In Macomb County, residents launched a petition drive asking the St. Clair Shores City Council to pass a resolution opposing these policies that encourage more beach closings and place the public’s health at risk.  Grand Rapids residents are also collecting petition signatures opposing the administration’s sewage policies. 

 “With their pocketbooks, Michigan voters have demonstrated their commitment to cleaning up Michigan’s bathing beaches,” said Sarah Roberts, Lake St. Clair Community Organizer for Clean Water Action.  “It’s time the Bush administration stop hampering local efforts to protect our Great Lakes and other waters by weakening standards and slashing critical funding.”

 “Dilution is not the solution to pollution,” said Nancy Orewyler with the local citizens group Saving Wetlands and Trees.  “Removing the finish line for communities to end the dumping of improperly treated sewage into local lakes and rivers is bad for Michigan.”


For the complete report, go to http://www.nrdc.org/water/oceans/ttw/titinx.asp.

For the Michigan report go to:  http://www2.nrdc.org/water/oceans/ttw/summic.pdf


Clean Water Action is a non-profit citizens’ organization with 100,000 Michigan members 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. More information is available at www.cleanwateraction.org.


Saving Wetlands and Trees a citizen’s group working to protect natural areas and water quality within the Lake St. Clair Watershed.


NRDC 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 1 million e-activists and members nationwide served from offices in New York, Washington, D.C., Santa Monica and San Francisco. More information about NRDC is available through its Web site: www.nrdc.org.




David Holtz
Michigan Director
Clean Water Action
517-203-0754 East Lansing
313-300-4454 cell