Three Macomb County beaches on Lake St. Clair are listed among the dirtiest beaches in America, according to a new report by an environmental research group.
The Memorial Park Beach in St. Clair Shores, the Lake St. Clair Metropark beach in Harrison Township and the New Baltimore beach all made the list. Macomb beaches have struggled with polluted water for about 25 years due to sewage overflows that create unsafe levels of E.coli bacteria for swimmers.
“It’s hard to believe that 47 years after we passed the Clean Water Act that we are still concerned with poop in the water when people want to go swimming,” said John Rumpler, clean water program director for the Environment America Research and Policy Center, which conducted the report.
The study released this morning looked at water quality in 29 coastal and Great Lakes states and the number of days in 2018 that public beaches had dangerously high bacteria counts exceeding Environmental Protection Agency standards. The report says the high levels, if not found through water testing, can sicken an estimated 75,000 swimmers a year.
The study found that in the summer of 2018 Memorial Park beach had unsafe E.coli levels in 26 of 49 water samples looked at by the center. The swimming area at Lake St. Clair Metropark, formerly known as Metro Beach, was above safe bacteria counts in 13 of 51 samples. And the New Baltimore beach exceeded EPA levels in 12 of 48 samples.
However, Macomb’s rank on a national scale might be much worse, based on the rigorous, twice-weekly water-testing program conducted by the Macomb County Health Department. Overall, the health department conducts hundreds of tests at the beaches each year, from April to September.
In contrast to the 49 samples looked at by the center, the health department data shows that Memorial Park beach was closed most of last summer – nearly 90 days total – due to E.coli pollution. The beach, located at Jefferson and Masonic avenues, was shut down from July 30 to August 27 due to contaminated water.
While the center’s report listed the five worst beaches in each of the 29 states that were studied, the amount of samples scrutinized varied greatly. For example, in Connecticut and Virginia, the pollution problems cited were based on 20 samples or less at each beach cited.
In California, where testing is conducted year-round in some areas, the contamination levels reported were based on up to 175 samples at each beach that was looked at.
Two other Michigan beaches, Pier Park in Wayne and Singing Bridge beach in Arenac County, located on the Saginaw Bay, rounded out the list of the five worst beaches in the state, though those sites had taken few water samples.