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IN Great Lakes Beachwater Quality Report Released for Holiday Weekend

June 30, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS - Hoosiers hitting the state's Great Lakes beaches for the holiday weekend can do so knowing that Indiana's beaches are in better shape than half of states' beaches. However, at the same time, the number of beach closings and advisories has been on the rise. Total closing and advisory days for Indiana Great Lakes beaches reached 406 last year, compared to 387 the year before.

A beachwater quality report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) says that most of the time, elevated bacteria levels are the reason. NRDC staff attorney Michelle Mehta describes the health problems they can cause for beach-goers.

"The most common we see are gastrointestinal problems; ear, nose and throat problems and infections; and skin rashes."

The report points to runoff from storms and irrigation as the main cause of beach pollution, and suggests that cities and counties look at ways to make sure stormwater does not overwhelm sewage systems. Permeable pavement, rain barrels and runoff structures that direct water underground are examples of infrastructure that meets that goal.

David Beckman with NRDC says while the health risks of polluted beaches get a lot of attention at this time of year, there is an economic factor to consider, too.

"Local governments have a lot to gain by addressing the urban runoff problem, not only because of the public health and the environmental benefits, but because the main solution - green infrastructure - can make communities more attractive places for people to live."

The report lists beaches in Delaware, Minnesota and New Hampshire as the cleanest.

The full report, "Testing the Waters," is available at www.nrdc.org.

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - IN