DETROIT (AP) – Michigan beachgoers lost 755 days of water access in 2012 because of pollution, down 17 percent from 2011 and about half the number from five years earlier, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality said in a report released Monday.
A common cause for beach closings is the presence of bacteria from human or animal feces. Local health departments conduct tests for E. coli bacteria. Health standards forbid full-body contact with water that has 300 or more of the bacteria in a 100 milliliter sample.
The department’s annual beach monitoring report said 112 of the 423 beaches it monitored in 2012 had pollution actions. That included 260 Great Lakes beaches and 163 on inland waters. There were 760 beaches the state didn’t regularly monitor, some of which also had closings.
Altogether, 166 beaches were closed for a total of 755 days in 2012. That was down from 913 days lost at 165 beaches in 2011. The peaks in lost time in the past five years came in 2007, with 89 beaches closed for 1,568 days, and 2009, with 125 beaches closed for 1,596 days.
“Water quality protection continues to be a great concern in Michigan and depends on the collective efforts of multiple pollution prevention programs,” report authors Shannon Briggs and Thomas Jepsen Jr. wrote.
Common sources for human waste in beach water are overflows from combined sanitary-storm water sewers, overflows from sanitary sewers because of the penetration of storm water, and failing septic systems, the report said.
Local health department get financial aid from the Department of Environmental Quality to conduct water quality tests. The state agency has provided $2.52 million in monitoring grants since 2003, including $180,000 for monitoring in 2012.
The state’s monitoring program received a federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant in 2010 to improve forecasting of pollution problems and improve real-time reporting. That year, it handed out $3.2 million from the initiative for research and monitoring activities.
The state also established the BeachGuard online database that offers real-time information on closings at 1,243 and 481 private beaches. On Sunday, it listed one closing – Thornapple Lake at Charlton Park in southwest Michigan’s Barry County.
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