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Watchdog: Wisconsin Beaches 8th Worst in the Nation

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PHOTO: Summer beach-goers to Kohler-Andrae Beach near Sheboygan might not have realized the National Resources Defense Council has just ranked Wisconsin beaches eighth-worst in the nation for water pollution. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources.
PHOTO: Summer beach-goers to Kohler-Andrae Beach near Sheboygan might not have realized the National Resources Defense Council has just ranked Wisconsin beaches eighth-worst in the nation for water pollution. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources.
July 7, 2014

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – The water quality at Wisconsin beaches is eighth-worst in the nation, according to a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Anne Sayers, program director, Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, sees the findings as a shocking wake-up call.

"I would certainly hope so," says Sayers. "It certainly hits close to home when you pack up for a day at the beach and you get there and there's a sign up that says, 'It's not safe to swim here today.' What are the kids going to do instead? This is so important to us as Wisconsinites - we love to get outside."

The report says Great Lakes beaches are more isolated, relatively speaking, than coastal beaches. Since they don't have the water circulation of coastal beaches, this can allow pollutants to stagnate near the beaches. Sayers says Wisconsinites have work to do.

"One thing is cleaning up the mess that we've already made - we all learned that when we were young, but as a community we need to clean up the mess we've made in our waters," she says. "The best thing we can do is prevent this kind of pollution from happening at all, and that's a much broader and more difficult conversation, but it's one that clearly, we need to be having."

Sayers minces no words when describing the problem.

"You hear about this pollution and what it really is, it's chemicals, it's animal and human waste, bacteria, viruses," Sayers says. "This should serve as a serious wake-up call to Wisconsin citizens who value their water."

According to the report, Wisconsin placed 23rd out of the 30 Great Lakes and coastal states. Fourteen percent of the water samples taken from Wisconsin beaches failed to meet the Environmental Protection Agency's standards for safe beaches.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI