August 29, 2014

Wisconsin beaches rated 8th worst in the nation for water quality

Whitefish Dunes State Park (Photo: Wis DNR)

Whitefish Dunes State Park (Photo: Wis DNR)

A national environmental group says Wisconsin has the eighth worst beaches among 30 states which border either oceans or the Great Lakes.

The Natural Resources Defense Council issued a report Wednesday, which rated state beaches according to the bacteria levels from water samples taken a year ago. The report said 14 percent of Wisconsin’s water samples failed to meet Environmental Protection Agency standards for safe beach swimming waters.

Nationally, ten percent of 3,500 beach samples exceeded new and more stringent EPA limits for E. coli bacteria. The new maximum is 190 E. coli colony-forming units per 100-milliliters in a single sample. The old max was 235 units.

The largest known cause of the contamination, which results in beach closings and health advsories, is stormwater pollution. The Council says untreated sewage spills and overflows are also frequently to blame. Great Lakes beaches tend to have higher E. coli levels than their ocean counterparts, mainly because the Great Lakes don’t have the water circulation levels seen in the oceans.