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E-M:/ Report: MI Beach Closings Down

Thursday August 3, 2006                        Cyndi Roper, Clean Water Action
                                                               (517) 203-0754 office, (517) 490-1394 cell
                                                               Abby Rubley, Environment Michigan
                                                                (734) 662-9797 office, (517) 420-6777 cell
Michigan Beach Closings Down 8% Last Year
Closings Hit Record High Nationwide

DETROIT, MI – Beach closings and warnings due to bacterial contamination dropped in Michigan, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council’s annual report released today by Clean Water Action and Environment Michigan.

The report “Testing the Waters: A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches,” tallied 234 closing and health advisory days in 2005, an 8 percent decline from the 255 closings the year before. (The full report is available at http://www.nrdc.org/water/oceans/nttw.asp)

“Beachgoers shouldn’t be swimming in animal and human waste,” said Abby Rubley, Environment Michigan Field Organizer.  “We applaud Michigan for taking significant steps to reduce beachwater pollution and protect public health.  However, there is more that we should be doing to protect all beachgoers around the Great Lakes."

“The pollution that fouls our beaches comes from sewers, septic systems, and stormwater runoff from roads and buildings,” said Christy McGillivray of Clean Water Action. “Poorly planned development on our coasts has paved over wetlands and other vegetation that soaked up and filtered polluted stormwater and helped cut down on sewage overflows..”

“These problems are preventable,” she added. “It would be a lot safer to swim if municipalities used soil and vegetation to capture and filter stormwater at its source, and prioritized upgrading their aging sewer systems.”

NRDC has named beach buddies and beach bums for 2005.  These are beaches that monitored beachwater quality regularly, had no violations of public health standards, and took significant steps to reduce pollution.  Eighteen of the 33 beached named are in the Great Lakes,  nine of which are located in St. Clair County in Michigan. Those beaches are:

•    Burtchville Township Park
•    Chrysler Park Beach
•    Conger-Lighthouse Beach
•    Holland Road Beach
•    Lakeport State Campground
•    Lakeport State Park
•    Lakeside Beach
•    Marine City Beach
•    Marine City Diving Area

Michigan had one beach bum named – Singing Bridge Beach in Arenac County.  The Beach Bums violated public health standards at least 50 percent of the time samples were taken.  

Nationally, the number of closing and health advisory days at ocean, bay, and Great Lakes beaches topped 20,000 in 2005 – the most since NRDC began tracking the problem 16 years ago – confirming that U.S. beaches continue to suffer from serious water pollution.

Local environmental organizations applaud the work that the NRDC does to protect public health. "All the faith traditions thank and praise the Creator for water, because water is Life. We know too well that too much water, too little water, or polluted water brings death,” said Patty Gillis, Executive Director of Voices for Earth Justice—an interfaith environmental organization based in Roseville. .

This year’s report includes new information that provides a more alarming picture of the national problem. For the first time, NRDC evaluated beachwater quality nationwide and found 200 beaches in two dozen states whose beachwater samples violated the public health standards at least 25 percent of the time. In most cases, beachwater was contaminated with bacteria, and beachgoers were either swimming in it or banned from swimming because of the health risks. Overall, 8 percent of the beachwater samples taken nationwide violated health standards, while samples at Michigan beaches exceeded health standards 3 percent of the time.

The current beachwater health standards, however, do not adequately protect the public and must be updated, according to NRDC. Today the organization announced it is suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to modernize the standards as ordered by Congress six years ago.

“A day at the beach should not turn into a night in the bathroom, or worse, in the hospital,” said Nancy Stoner, director of NRDC’s Clean Water Project. “There have been significant advances over the last two decades that we should be using to protect beachgoers, but the EPA is dragging its feet in implementing them.”
The current beachwater quality standards are 20 years old and rely on obsolete monitoring methods and outdated science that leave beachgoers vulnerable to a range of waterborne illnesses. Risks include gastroenteritis, dysentery; hepatitis, respiratory ailments and other serious health problems. For senior citizens, small children, and people with weak immune systems, the results can be fatal.

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Clean Water Action—a grassroots citizens’ organization with over 177,000 Michigan members working locally, statewide, and nationally to protect our environment, health, economic well-being and community quality of life. www.cleanwateraction.org/mi

Environment Michigan - a statewide, citizen-based, non-profit, non-partisan environmental advocacy organization - is the new home of PIRGIM’s environmental work.  www.environmentmichigan.org