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Report: Great Lakes Beaches Most Frequently Contaminated

CHICAGO (WBBM) -- An annual water quality report from the National Resources Defense Council found that Great Lakes beaches were the most frequently closed beaches in the nation because of contaminated water.

As WBBM Newsradio 780's Mike Krauser reports, for 21 years the NRDC has been issuing its "Testing The Water" report and last year was the second worst on record for beach closures.

And the problem is twice as bad in the Great Lakes as it is on the coasts.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780's Mike Krauser reports


"This is the 21st year for testing the water and the news is not good," said NRDC Water Program Senior Analyst Karen Hobbs. "The Great Lakes region had the most frequently contaminated beach water. Fifteen percent of beach water samples exceeded public health standards in 2010."

The most frequent cause was storm water runoff. The most frequently closed beaches are in Winnekta.

"The Winnetka Elder Park beach, which was 61 percent of the time, and Winnetka's Centennial dog beach, at 49 percent of the time."

In Chicago, the South Shore, Rainbow, Calumet South, Jackson Park, Montrose and 31st Street beaches were closed 20 percent of the time.

Contaminated beach water can make swimmers sick.

"Including stomach flu, skin rashes, pink eye, ear, nose and throat problems, dysentery, hepatitis, respiratory illness and other serious health problems," Hobbs said.

The main culprit is storm water runoff, according to Hobbs, but the problem is nothing new.

"But what is new is that we know what to do about it, making our communities greener," she said.

The solution, Hobbs said, is keeping some of the storm water out of the sewers with greener infrastructure, like porous pavement and green roofs – all of which can reduce the amount of storm runoff that goes into sewers and, eventually, the lakes and rivers.

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