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GLIN==> Will the Beaches Stay Open this Season?



June 7, 2000

Source: Leslie Dorworth, (219)989-2726
Contact: Debra Levey Larson
Media/Communications Specialist
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant College Program
(217)333-8055; dlarson@uiuc.edu

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Will the Beaches Stay Open this Season?

URBANA- Store shelves are stocked with bottles of sunscreen, sunglasses and little hand-held fans. Mannequins in store windows model the latest in swimsuits, and families are marking their kitchen calendars with plans for a weekend at the beach. But when that weekend comes and the car is packed to the gills with beach umbrellas and sand chairs, will the beach be open?
The E. coli Interagency Task Force works year-round to try to find answers to the annual question in the southern Lake Michigan region. The task force was formed in 1996. It includes representatives from18 federal, state, county and local agencies. Leslie Dorworth, is an Aquatic Ecology Specialist for Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and chairs the outreach committee for the task force. "When the beaches have to be closed due to high levels of E. coli, it's not just an inconvenience and disappointment for swimmers and boaters, it may also result in a loss of revenue to businesses in those areas. We want to do everything we can to help keep the beaches open," Dorworth said.
Identifying the source of the E. coli is part of the work of the task force. E. coli (short for Escherichia coli) is a bacteria found in the intestines of birds and mammals, including humans. When infected feces come into contact with lakes and rivers, the water may become contaminated with E. coli bacteria at an unsafe level. When that happens, warning signs are posted and the beach is closed to help prevent illness. Swallowing water contaminated with E. coli can cause intestinal discomfort or diarrhea, and swimming in the water can cause eye, ear and skin irritations.
So, how does E. coli get into the water? Dorworth says the source of contamination is talked about in terms of two categories: Point Source and Non-Point Source, "Some municipal sewage treatment plants have difficulty dealing with storm run-off. These treatment facilities are too small to handle the additional water from a big rainstorm and when they become overwhelmed, we get a sewer overflow into the lakes and rivers. That's a Point Source of E. coli because it comes from a single point." A Non-Point Source is a lot harder to identify because it could be coming from just about anywhere. Birds and dogs on the beach, cows on nearby farms, even babies in diapers, can all be contributing to the E. coli level.
Another mission of the task force is to inform the public about ways they can help prevent outbreaks of E. coli at the beaches.

Some guidelines the task force suggest are:
--If dogs are on the beach, make sure to have a plastic bag along to clean up any fecal material.


--Keep any food on the beach wrapped in plastic and remove all litter when you leave so birds and animals will not be attracted to the beach.

--Since diapers can leak, particularly when they get wet, and release bacteria into the water, remember to change your child's diapers frequently.


Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and The E.coli Interagency Task Force have produced a series of 16 post-card sized, camera-ready public service announcements. The series, called "BeachWatch", includes information about E.coli, the delicate dunes, beach grass, the color of lake water and many other interesting beach-related topics. Please contact Debra Levey Larson at 217-333-8055 or dlarson@uiuc.edu to obtain a copy of the series.

For more information about beach health and the E. coli Interagency Task Force, contact Leslie Dorworth, Aquatic Ecology Specialist for Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, (219)989-2726; dorworth@calumet.purdue.edu or visit http://ag.ansc.purdue.edu/il-in-sg/staff/sleslie/swim.htm on the Web.

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The Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant College Program is one of 29 National Sea Grant College Programs. Created by Congress in 1966, Sea Grant combines university, government, business and industry expertise to address coastal and Great Lakes needs. Funding is provided by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U. S. Department of Commerce, Purdue University at West Lafayette, Indiana, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.



Debra Levey Larson, Media/Communications Specialist
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant College Program
University of Illinois
63 Mumford Hall, MC-710
1301 W. Gregory Dr.
Urbana, IL 61801
tel 217-333-8055
fax 217-333-2614
e-mail dlarson@uiuc.edu
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