June 5, 2003
Before you pack up your fun-in-the-sun supplies and hit Indiana’s Lake Michigan beaches this summer, you might want to hit the Internet first. A new Web site can tell you whether any of these beaches are closed due to E.coli contamination.
“Last year, Indiana beaches were closed nearly 20 times over the course of the summer,” said Leslie Dorworth, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant aquatic ecology specialist.
Lake, Porter and LaPorte County beaches are tested regularly for E.coli., a bacteria found in human and animal waste. E.coli is used as an indicator organism for the presence of other disease-causing organisms in the water. Children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are most at risk of developing an illness after swimming in polluted waters.
“The new Web site will be updated weekly to provide timely information about water quality,” said Dorworth. “You can see if the water at a specific beach is being monitored, who is responsible for the monitoring, the pollutants that are monitored, and if advisories or closures have been issued.”
In addition, the site provides water temperatures, a map of area beaches, answers to frequently asked questions about water quality and a number of useful links.
The Web site is part of a monitoring and notification plan developed by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, Save the Dunes Conservation Fund and Indiana University Northwest for Indiana’s portion of the Lake Michigan shoreline. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management has contracted with these organizations, who are receiving federal funds through the state, to develop the plan in response to the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act requirements.
The BEACH Act was passed by Congress in October 2000 to “reduce the risk of disease to users of the nation's recreational waters.” The Act authorizes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to award grants to states to develop and implement programs for monitoring and assessing for contaminants in coastal recreation waters used by the public.
To use the new Web site, go to http://swann2.ansc.purdue.edu/nwibeach. For more information about water quality issues, visit the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant Web site at www.iisgcp.org and click on Education. --30--
The Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant College Program is one of 30 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, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Purdue University at West Lafayette, Indiana.