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Illinois' Beaches Are Filthy, NRDC Reports

By Chris Bentley in News on Jun 28, 2012 6:20PM

Chuck Sudo/Chicagoist

It’s hot. But not hot enough to boil off the bacteria that have once again earned Illinois beaches low marks for cleanliness. The Natural Resources Defense Council ranked beach water quality in Illinois 28th out of 30 states, with 12 percent of all samples exceeding contamination limits. Only Ohio and Louisiana fared worse.

The report named Winnetka’s Elder Beach Park one of the dirtiest beaches, with more than half of NRDC’s samples from that site exceeding state standards. Lake County’s North Point Marina Beach joined Elder Beach Park on a list of repeat offenders where more than 25 percent of samples exceeded EPA standards each year 2007-2011.

Other offenders in Cook County with more than 20 percent of samples exceeding state standards this year included Wilmette Gillson Park Dog Beach, Winnetka Centennial Dog Beach, Glencoe Park Beach, Rainbow Beach, Montrose Beach and South Shore.

The Chicago Park District announced in May they would no longer instate swim bans when Lake Michigan’s Escherichia coli count exceeds federal safety standards. In 2011, Chicago Park District began intensive data collection at five beaches: Foster, Montrose, Oak Street, 63rd Street and Calumet. They will use models to make swim ban and advisory decision this year.

Two beaches in Chicago — 63rd Street Beach in Jackson Park and 57th Street Beach —routinely exceed water quality standards. A targeted “gull harassment” campaign, wherein collies are employed to chase away gulls before they can defecate on our beaches, has had a demonstrable impact in the short term.