Cleaning Up Great Lakes Beaches
Where is your favorite place on the Great Lakes? Is it a beach?
Many people feel strong connections to Great Lakes beaches – and why wouldn’t they? That’s where most interact with the lakes – they swim, hike, and relax on beaches – and there’s nothing like a sunset or sunrise viewed from a the edge of a Great Lake.
Despite the majesty of the Great Lakes, some communities don’t have these positive experiences with Great Lakes beaches. Many beaches are polluted by sewage overflows, nuisance species, waterfowl droppings, and litter. Luckily, there are groups throughout the region that are working to clean up these beaches and give safe beach access back to the communities who deserve them.
Alliance for the Great Lakes
The Alliance for the Great Lakes Adopt-a-Beach Program creates a year-round opportunity for families, businesses, schools, and other groups (and of course individuals as well) to conduct beach health and litter monitoring on Great Lakes beaches. As part of the beach cleanup process, volunteers catalog the litter they find in an attempt to learn the sources of pollution. All information is entered into a robust online system to monitor the data.
Under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Adopt-a-Beach Program is focusing on three areas: Wisconsin’s Milwaukee Estuary, Ohio’s Cuyahoga River area, and Michigan’s Saginaw Bay.
The Watershed Center of Grand Traverse Bay
The Watershed Center of Grand Traverse Bay has implemented a few innovative programs to improve the quality of the Bay’s Lake Michigan beaches. The Center produced a series of public service announcements encouraging people to take action to improve local beach conditions – for example, to reduce E. coli levels by feeding waterfowl less. The Center performed a detailed sanitary survey in order to find leaks that were letting untreated sewage into the lakes – they even brought in dogs that could detect whether there was a sanitary sewer leak upstream from a given point!
City of Kenosha, Wisconsin
The City of Kenosha is taking steps to improve beach quality for its residents. Stormwater is a big problem at Pennoyer Beach in Kenosha, so the city is planning to create a stormwater infiltration basin, filled with native plants and grasses, that will hold stormwater in one place and allow it to infiltrate slowly, preventing erosion and reducing pollution on the beach and in Lake Michigan. The city hopes that this infiltration basin will also alter the landscape enough to discourage seagulls from swarming the beach, eliminating a major source of bacterial pollution for residents. Furthermore, the city is working on stormwater management through green infrastructure in order to reduce stress on the city’s beaches.