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Scientists Look to Forecast Beach Closings

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New research could help officials forecast Chicago beach closings. And it may change the way scientists think about health risks in the water.

The Park District shuts down beaches when it finds too much E-Coli in the water. Researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey looked at 23 Chicago beaches. Richard Whitman heads up the Lake Michigan Ecological Research Station. He says they expected to find a lot of variation from one beach to the next.

WHITMAN: We were very surprised at the remarkable coincidence, that beaches rose and fell simultaneously.

That suggests that it’s not sewer outflows and runoff contaminating the water. Whitman says the changes have more to do with region-wide weather and wave patterns. That means scientists may be able to use weather forecasts to predict when bacteria levels will rise.

I’m Gabriel Spitzer, Chicago Public Radio.

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