Public Input Invited for Indiana’s Lake Michigan Beaches

Public Input Invited for Indiana’s Lake Michigan Beaches

Save the Dunes Conservation Fund (SDCF), Indiana University Northwest, and the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant College Program, with guidance from the Interagency Task Force on E. Coli, are developing a plan to improve consistency in monitoring and notification of beach closings and advisories for Indiana beach goers. This plan is in response to the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act requirements.

Congress passed the BEACH Act in October 2000 in order to “reduce the risk of disease to users of the nation’s recreational waters.” The legislation, which amended the federal Clean Water Act, requires states to adopt new or revised water quality standards by April 10, 2004 for pathogens and pathogen indicators for which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published criteria. It also requires EPA to further study the health effects of disease-causing pathogens. The Act authorizes EPA to award grants to states to develop and implement a program for monitoring and assessing coastal recreation waters used by the public, which include the Great Lakes, for pathogens and pathogen indicators (such as Escherichia coli).

Project partners are working with beach owners and operators along Lake Michigan, as well as the general public, to develop this plan, which must meet performance criteria set by the EPA. These criteria address the following: evaluation and classification; monitoring; public notification and prompt risk communication; and public evaluation.

Surveys have been conducted and their results have been used to evaluate and classify Indiana’s Lake Michigan beaches regarding the potential risk of disease to swimmers. These classifications will guide the allocation of resources for implementing new and improved monitoring and notification procedures. Public opinion is necessary in response to these rankings. Any input could reveal additional contamination sources, as well as identify other affected beaches that require attention.

Project partners will also be relying on public input to develop a plan that most effectively notifies beach goers of the health risks at specific beaches based on current monitoring results. This plan will recommend notification procedures for beach closings through the use of beach advisory signs, the mass media, community publications, brochures, telephone hotlines, and/or Internet websites.

Three meetings have been scheduled for receiving public input in each of the three Indiana counties with Lake Michigan beaches (Lake, Porter, and LaPorte counties). After consideration of comments and a review of applicable grant conditions, a final plan will be prepared for submission to EPA.

For more information on the scheduled meetings please contact Sandra Wilmore at (219) 879-3564, Email: sand@savedunes.org.

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