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Great Lakes region not doing well on beach water quality

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

The Great Lakes region didn't do so well last year in beach water quality, according to the annual beach report by Natural Resources Defense Council. 

More than 3,000 samples were taken from coastal and Great Lake beaches across the country. Thirteen percent of the samples had bacterial levels that were too high for safe swimming. That means the region has one of the highest failure rates in the country. 

Steve Fleischli is with the Natural Resources Defense Council. He explained why this might be the case. 

"The lakes are basically closed systems that don’t have the type of circulation that coastal, marine waters have," he said. "So you don’t see the circulation and the flushing of the contaminates, so that can sort of stagnate." 

Thirty states were tested. Despite the Great Lakes' poor performance overall, Michigan's beaches actually ranked 7th-safest on the NRDC list.

Karen Hobbs is with the NRDC. She said Michigan is doing a good job of keeping on top of contamination problems.

"By targeting solutions based upon specific contamination problems at each beach, that’s a really important step in the right direction," Hobbs said.  "And one of those solutions that Michigan has been doing is the use of green infrastructure." 

Green infrastructures include things like rain barrels placed under rooftops.

A spokesman with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality disagreed with the way the NRDC collected the data.

He said the state's beaches are safer than the report suggests.

– Alyse Guenther, Michigan Radio Newsroom