Illinois Ranks Low in Beach Water Quality Report

By Anthony Ponce
|  Wednesday, Jun 29, 2011  |  Updated 10:46 PM CDT
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Illinois Ranks Low in Beach Water Quality Report

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Last year was not a good year for beach water quality in Chicagoland.

Several city beaches -- Rainbow, South Shore, Jackson, and Montrose -- all exceeded contamination standards more than 20 percent of the times they were sampled, according to a report released Wednesday by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The story is worse in the North Shore, with Centennial and Elder beaches in Winnetka exceeding those same standards more than 60 percent of the time.

"That beach sits at the bottom of a bluff, so it really takes the brunt of stormwater coming in off the streets," said NRDC senior policy analyst Karen Hobbs.

The report ranked Illinois' beaches 26th in a list of the 31 states sampled for water quality along the Great Lakes and the east and west coasts.

Untreated stormwater run off and sewage overflows are the big culprits. At the beginning of June, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District was forced to dump some 100 million gallons of untreated stormwater into Lake Michigan.

Hobbs said the long-term solution is more green infrastructure; more street trees, rooftop gardens, and porous pavements.

"Systems that capture rain where it falls and prevents it from even entering the sewer system to begin with," Hobbs said.

The report also suggested expanding the use of border collies to harass gulls which contribute to the contamination.

In the meantime, Hobbs said barring an advisory, don't avoid swimming in the lake, but do so using common sense. Swimmers should wear goggles, avoid ingesting any lake water, and don't go in if the water smell or looks unusual.

For a complete list of how Illinois beaches scored, view the "Testing the Water" report on the NRDC website.

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