Lake Erie’s beaches are ranked the worst of the nation’s coastal beaches for water quality according to the latest study from a national environmental group. ideastream’s Michelle Kanu reports the aging infrastructure of cities along the lake is partly to blame.
Every year, the Natural Resources Defense Council analyzes beach water quality from around the country, and Lake Erie’s beaches have always ranked poorly.
But last year, the coastline hit rock bottom.
In 2012, 21 percent of all water samples from Ohio’s Lake Erie beaches exceeded what the state considers to be a safe level of E. coli bacteria.
Tessie Polluck is a spokeswoman with the Ohio Department of Health, the group that monitors the state’s beaches. She says there are several possible sources.
Polluck: “It can come from anything from household sewage discharge into the water, to animal feces on the beaches to excessive rain which would cause increased runoff or even sewer overflows.”
While Lake Erie’s beaches are last on the list, they’re not the only ones in the Great Lakes region dealing with bacteria.
Rob Moore is a policy analyst with the NRDC. He says aging sewer systems in cities along the lakes are part of the issue, but Lake Erie has other unique challenges.
Moore: “It’s the shallowest of the Great Lakes. It also has a very high pollution input from Detroit, from Cleveland, from Toledo.”
The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District has begun a 25 year, 3 billion dollar plan to reduce the flow of untreated sewage into Lake Erie.
Other northern jurisdictions have also planned upgrades.