New report reveals disturbing state of Wisconsin’s Great Lakes beaches

MADISON — With temperatures across the state expected to be in the upper 80s and low 90s this weekend, it will be a great time to get out and enjoy Wisconsin’s sun and surf. But Wisconsin residents will be heading to some of the dirtiest beaches in the nation, according to a recent report.

“Simply stated,” says Melissa Malott, water program director, Clean Wisconsin, the state’s largest environmental advocacy organization, “our beaches among the most contaminated in the nation, coming in at 26 out of 30 states ranked.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council released its 19th annual Testing the Waters report, which compiles data on water quality and beach closings across the nation last week. The report found that 13 percent of beaches in Wisconsin on lakes Michigan and Superior violated public health standards for swimming, which is nearly twice the national average; the report ranked each state based on the percentage of beachwater samples that exceed the national daily standard. Additionally, 37 percent of the state’s Great Lakes beaches do not undergo water testing.

“This report reiterates what we’ve known for years: We need to take better care of the Great Lakes,” says Malott. “They are an amazing resource that has been neglected far too long.”

Clean Wisconsin is working to reduce pollution that runs off farm fields and city streets as well as from factories and other industrial sources. Together these sources are primarily responsible for the water quality issues plaguing Wisconsin’s lakes, rivers and streams. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 70 percent of water quality problems arise from manure, fertilizers and other harmful substances running off farm fields.

The Great Lakes offer more than 1,000 freshwater beaches stretching along 5,500 miles of shoreline. Wisconsin has 193 Great Lakes coastline beaches in 15 counties. Of these 193 beaches, 72 Tier 1 beaches, which are popular beaches or beaches located near potential pollution sources, are not being monitored.

The Testing the Waters report lists 18 of Wisconsin’s Great Lakes beaches where water monitoring samples exceeded national standards for bacteria and pollution at least 25 percent of the time. Wisconsin’s top 5 dirtiest beaches are:

  1. Wisconsin Point Beach 2, Douglas County, Lake Superior
  2. South Shore Beach, Milwaukee County, Lake Michigan
  3. Fischer Park Beaches, Manitowoc County, Lake Michigan
  4. Neshotah Beach, Manitowoc County, Lake Michigan
  5. Eichelman Beach, Kenosha County, Lake Michigan