Great Lakes beach testing may be too broad

January 4, 2012

Associated Press

(Flickr/Eric Alix Rogers)
The 63rd St. beach in Chicago.

A new study suggests some beach closures on the Great Lakes can be avoided with a more local approach to water quality testing.

The findings from a U.S. Geological Survey study were announced Tuesday. The study provides evidence that basing beach closure decisions on local variations in bacteria concentrations can keep beaches open more often, without increased health risks or violations of federal guidelines.

The study found that water quality testing at Great Lakes beaches may be applied too broadly. The approach may have resulted in more than 650 Chicago-area beach closings between 2004 and 2010 than may have occurred if a more local approach had been taken.

USGS director Marcia McNutt says "everyone wins" when science can be used to prevent unnecessary beach closures and still protect human health.