Eliminating Sources of Beach Contamination

  • This bread was dumped at a park along a Great Lakes beach for the gulls, geese, and squirrels that live there. Beach visitors often assume high bacteria levels that close beaches to swimmers are solely due to sewer overflows, but animals that defecate in the area also contribute to the problem.

This past summer beaches around the Great Lakes were closed in record numbers because of high bacteria counts. One government study indicates part of the problem might be animal feces, but the public does not seem to be aware that of the connection. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:

Transcript

This past summer beaches around the Great Lakes were closed in record numbers
because of high bacteria counts. One government study indicates part of the problem
might be animal feces, but the public does not seem to be aware that of the connection.
The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:


High levels of bacteria in the water can make swimmers sick. Cameron Davis is with the
watchdog group, the Lake Michigan Federation. He says more can be done to stop the
contamination if sewer plants are improved and if beach visitors were more aware that
leaving food waste and feeding gulls and geese adds to the problem. That’s because the
birds defecate more, causing higher levels of bacteria along the shore.


“So, we’ve got the sewage treatment agencies saying ‘Oh, no. It’s the geese and the
gulls,’ and we’ve got the people feeding the birds saying ‘Oh, no. It’s sewage treatment
plants.’ So, you can see, it’s a combination of sources and there are things — I don’t care
what anybody says — there are things we can do to help solve the problem with all those
different sources.”


Davis says local governments need to start identifying and eliminating those sources of
beach contamination, starting with improving sewer plants and getting people to clean up
after their visits and to stop feeding wildlife at the beaches.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.

Superfund Sites Without Funds

The Inspector General of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says the EPA didn’t fund clean up for seven toxic waste sites this fiscal year. As the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Annie Macdowell reports, two of the seven sites are here in the Midwest:

Transcript

The Inspector General of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says the EPA didn’t fund clean-up for seven toxic waste sites this fiscal year. As the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Annie MacDowell reports, two of the seven sites are here in the Midwest:


A tax on chemical and oil companies expired in 1995.
The tax was used to fund clean ups at some of the country’s most polluted sites.
Now most of the funding comes from tax payers.
Clean-up on two Midwest sites was pushed back – the Jennison Wright Corporation in Illinois and Continental Steel in Indiana.
Hazardous chemicals are seeping into the ground water at these two sites.
Bill Muno, the Regional Superfund Director at the EPA, says to clean up more sites each year, Congress would have to increase Superfund appropriations.


“There isn’t enough money in that annual appropriation to cover all the work that needs to be done each year.”


Muno says the EPA Inspector General’s report shows there were more sites in line for funding that were delayed under the Bush Administration.
But he adds that tests show the sites are not an immediate threat to public health.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Annie MacDowell.

New Microbe Munches Pollutants

Trichloroethaneor TCA, is a solvent that contaminates groundwater and erodes the ozone layer. It is present at many polluted sites across the country. TCA comes from many common products such as glue, paint and industrial degreasers. Now scientists say they’ve found a microbe that can help clean it up. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tamar Charney reports:

Transcript

Trichloroethane or TCA is a solvent that contaminates groundwater
and erodes the ozone layer. It is present at many polluted sites across
the country. TCA comes from many common products such as glue,
industrial
degreasers, and aerosol sprays. Now scientists say they’ve found a
microbe
that can help clean it up. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tamar
Charney reports:


One way polluted water can be cleaned is to add bacteria that breaks
down the harmful substances. It is a process called bioremediation. In a
recent issue of “Science,” researchers at Michigan State University say
they’ve identified a microbe that could do this with TCA. Benjamin
Griffin is a doctoral student who worked on the project. He says they
found the bacteria in sediment in the Hudson River.


“They actually breathe TCA, so they respire it. They’re using this
chlorinated compound in the same way we use oxygen.”


The bacteria breaks down the TCA into other compounds. Those chemical
compounds can then be further broken down by other pollution-eating or
breathing bacteria. Up until now, scientists though there might not be
a
way to biodegrade TCA. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Tamar
Charney.

Canadian Enviro Enforcement Criticized

An environmental lobby group in Canada says the Ontario Ministry of Environment watches industrial plants pollute the Great Lakes, but rarely enforces pollution laws. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham has the details:

Transcript

An environmental lobby group in Canada says the Ontario Ministry of Environment watches industrial plants pollute the Great Lakes, but rarely enforces pollution laws. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.


Between 1995 and 1999, polluters’ violated Ontario’s water pollution laws ten thousand times, but only eleven plants faced any penalties. Elaine McDonald is a staff scientist with the Sierra Legal Defense Fund, based in Toronto, which published a report on the findings. She says the problem started when the government cut the Ministry of Environment’s budget by about 40-percent:


“This resulted in lax enforcement in the field and– basically a policy of lax enforcement and therefore we saw this sudden increase in violations and very few charged being made.”


The Sierra Legal Defense Fund is calling on the Ontario government to crack down on Great Lakes polluters. The environmentalists say they do see signs of improvement, with more charges being filed in recent months against repeat pollution offenders. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Lester Graham.