Beach closures expected to be down again in 2013 - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Beach closures expected to be down again in 2013

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Last summer, beach goers lost 755 beach days between all Michigan beaches, but that's 17% less than the summer before.  Berrien County Environmental Health Manager Ken Priest says the reason isn't the weather, it's pollution.  "We feel that, whenever there's heavy rains, that all the material that's on the parking lot, and on the streets, roof tops, everything just gets washed off into the lake."

Beaches closest to drains, harbors, and streams are most vulnerable to run-off pollution.
Priest says the easiest bacteria to test for in the lake is E. coli. E. coli comes from warm blooded animals like people or even sea gulls. Priest says beach closures are usually because of E. coli traces in the water.

So, are people doing their business in the lake, or the animals?  "We actually don't know from our tests what animal it's from or if it's from people. We do not know," says Priest.

The Berrien County Health Department tests water quality at 14 beaches from the state line up to Van Buren County. They take 3 water samples from each beach.

Water tests are important, but Priest says they look for visual signs of pollution as well, like floating debris, or litter, dead animals and fish, still standing water puddles, and even any excessive amount of sea gulls on the beach.

So far, Priest expects 2013 to be a good beach season because we have had less powerful rain.

"We've had gentle rains where the land has accepted the water and it doesn't get into the lake per say."

Before you head to the beach you can check the water quality from home at the Michigan DEQ website.

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