Durbin: Fix Illinois Beaches

Current test results aren't real-time

Sen. Dick Durbin on Friday called upon the federal government to help monitor Chicago's beaches.

In a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency, Durbin asked that city beaches be included in a rapid water testing program, which would allow Illinois officials to know immediately if there is something wrong with the water.

Most beaches in the state are tested seven days a week, but state officials can't get real-time results.

"We've got to give everyone, who comes out to a beach, whether its an adult or a family with children, the peace of mind to know that these waters are safe for people to splash around in, for the kids to play in," Durbin said.

Durbin's request follows a report earlier this week that shows problems with Lake Michigan water, including above-average E. coli levels.

July 31, 2009

Administrator Lisa Jackson
The Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20460

Dear Administrator Jackson:

At Wednesday’s Illinois congressional delegation luncheon, I spoke with you at some length about cleaning up and protecting Lake Michigan. Today I write to affirm our commitment to fully implementing the proposed Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and to seek your assistance with water quality monitoring along Illinois’ beaches.

Since we spoke, I have learned that the Natural Resources Defense Council released a new study that raises a number of additional concerns about the water quality at Lake Michigan’s beaches. The water is affected by run-off from farms and discharges from communities, as well as air-borne contaminants that are released over the Lake.

This recent study raises concerns about the water quality at our beaches that warrants timely action by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). While local testing of the beaches has improved, the delay in obtaining test results often means the critical information on water quality is not available in real time. I understand that the EPA is currently testing rapid detection technologies that allow local governments to make decisions about beach closings in an appropriate timeframe. I would ask the EPA to expand the rapid detection testing program to Illinois at the earliest opportunity in order to deal with the current water quality issues at our beaches.

Illinois’ beaches are among our greatest treasures. They are enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. We must do all we can to protect these beaches, the aquatic life this ecosystem supports and Lake Michigan itself. The Environmental Protection Agency is a critically important partner in this effort.

Here in the Senate, I will do my part to provide the necessary funding for deployment of the rapid testing technology in Illinois so that local communities do not bear the brunt of expediting this important technology.

In partnership with the EPA and local communities, we can clean up contamination, upgrade waste water treatment facilities and fund local restoration efforts to protect Lake Michigan. Thank you for leadership and your commitment to work with Congress to protect and restore the Great Lakes.


Richard J. Durbin
U.S. Senator

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