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Indiana Department of Environmental Management

IDEM > Your Environment > Indiana Beach Program > Lake Michigan Beaches Project Description Lake Michigan Beaches Project Description

Monitoring and Sampling

The summer of 2004 was the first beach season in which IDEM was able to provide funds to coastal communities to increase the frequency of monitoring. This funding provided multiple resources to local communities, allowing equipment upgrades, supply purchases, and additional summer staff to collect and analyze samples. A contract was developed between the coastal communities that did not have the infrastructure to collect and analyze samples and a contract laboratory for analytical services.

Parameters such as water and air temperature, wave intensity, wind speed and direction are recorded at the time of sample collection. Water samples are analyzed for E. coli and are used as indicators of disease-causing organisms using either a 16-18 or a 24 hour test.

One of the methods approved by U.S. EPA, m-TEC, provides the results of a water quality analysis for E. coli in 24 hours. Currently, several beaches in this program are using the Coliert method, which provides the results in 16-18 hours. The timing of sample analysis does not always provide beach managers with a complete picture of the current status of beach water conditions. In fact, the data from the 2004 beach season demonstrated that 85 percent of the time, by the time a water sample analysis was finished the next day, the water was already suitable for swimming. This resulted in undue beach closures.

Tests providing a rapid response are currently being evaluated by U.S. EPA to produce even quicker sample results. Meanwhile, if a water sample exceeds the 235 CFU/100 ml federal E. coli standard, an advisory is issued, or the local beach manager may decide to close the beach.

The Lake and LaPorte County Health Departments, the cities of Hammond, East Chicago, and Gary. The Gary Sanitary District and the National Lakeshore have been monitoring the beaches along Indiana's Lake Michigan shoreline for years. Samples were collected and analyzed for E. coli for the communities of Ogden Dunes, Dune Acres, and Beverly Shores 1-2 times per week prior to the development of the Indiana's Lake Michigan Beach Program. The program has now increased the frequency of water sampling and analysis to 5-7 times per week from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The following beach communities are participating in the monitoring component of Indiana's 2008 Beach monitoring and notification program:

Community Beach Sample Collection Sample Analysis
Hammond

Hammond Lake Front

  • Marina West
  • Marina East
Hammond Health Department Hammond Sanitary District
Whiting

Whihala

  • West End
  • East End
  • Pocket
Microbac Microbac
N/A N/A
East Chicago Jeorse Park East Chicago Health Department East Chicago Sanitary District
Gary Buffington* *East Chicago Health Department *East Chicago Sanitary District

Lake Street

  • Lake Street Boat Ramp
Gary Sanitary District Gary Sanitary District
Marquette
Wells Street
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore West Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
Ogden Dunes Ogden Dunes Microbac Microbac
Dune Acres Dunes Acres Microbac Microbac
Cowles Bog NA NA
Porter Porter Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
Indiana Dunes State Park

State Park

  • West End
  • East End
Indiana Dunes State Park Gary Sanitary District
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Kemil Ave Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
Beverly Shores Dunbar Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
Lakeview
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Central Ave Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
Mt. Baldy

Michigan City Washington Park LaPorte County Health Department LaPorte County Health Department
Sheridan Beach
  • Stop 2
  • Stop 7
LaPorte County Health Department LaPorte County Health Department
Long Beach
  • Stop 20
  • Stop 24
LaPorte County Health Department LaPorte County Health Department
Duneland Beach
  • Stop 31
  • Stop 34
LaPorte County Health Department LaPorte County Health Department
Michiana Shores

Michiana Shores

  • Stop 37
LaPorte County Health Department LaPorte County Health Department

Parameters such as water and air temperature, wave height, wind speed and direction are recorded at the time of sample collection. Water samples are analyzed for E. coli and are used as indicators of disease-causing organisms using the 18 hour test. The current method that has been approved for the analysis of E. coli, require the incubation of collected samples for 18 hours before they can be read for the presence of E. coli. Tests providing a rapid response are currently being evaluated by the EPA.

Notification

Uniform advisory signs were developed by beach managers for use on beaches along Lake Michigan's shoreline within the three-county area for the 2005 beach season. The signs notify the public when available data show that water quality standards have been exceeded.. The signs are updated daily during the swimming season when water quality does not meet state and federal E. coli criteria. Beach managers must issue beach advisories when there is an exceedance, but they also have the discretion to close the beach waters, if they deem necessary.

IDEM is also providing Indiana's Lake Michigan shoreline beach communities with kiosks to display the beach advisory signs in addition to relevant information on the causes and risks associated with E. coli contamination.

Signage

The following sign, placed on a blue background will be used to indicate the location of beach water quality status signage :

Water quality notice sign

The following sign, placed on a green background, will be used to advise beachgoers when an E. Coli exceedance has not been detected and the water has been determined to be safe for swimming:

The following sign, placed on a yellow background will be used to advise beachgoers when an E. Coli exceedance is imminent or has occurred:

The following sign, placed on a white background with a red octagon, will be used to advise beachgoers when an E. Coli exceedance has occurred and the beach has been closed to swimming:

The following sign, placed on a white background will be used to advise Spanish-speaking beachgoers of current lake water quality:

Web site

As part of the beach notification process, time-relevant water quality data for individual beaches will also be posted on the new BeachGuard Web application. The site also includes pollution information, project information, and links to other water quality sites. During 2004, a partnership between IDEM and Earth 911 facilitated the development of the submittal, reporting and notification system for Indiana's Lake Michigan Beaches Program. The information posted on the new BeachGuard Web application will continue to allow partner communities, beachgoers and interested parties to access the current status of beaches that have been monitored for E. coli.

Performance Criteria and Pilot Projects

It should be noted that the BMNP also meets the nine performance criteria established by U.S. EPA's BEACH Act. The performance criteria for Indiana's Lake Michigan Beach plan include how Indiana's beaches are evaluated and classified, what procedures will be implemented by the local communities to monitor the coastal waters for E. coli, how to notify the public of beach water quality, how to communicate the risks associated with swimming in contaminated waters and what mechanisms Indiana will implement for Indiana's beach stakeholders use to evaluate the BMNP.

Pilot Projects 2004

As part of Indiana's efforts to fulfill the requirement of the BEACH Act performance criteria, four pilot projects were funded and implemented during the 2004 beach season:

  1. Indiana University: developing a prototypical model of E. coli induced closings at Indiana's Lake Michigan beaches in close proximity to the outfall of Dunes Creek into Lake Michigan .
  2. The Gary Sanitary District: characterizing the E. coli distribution of beaches down current from Burns Ditch that flows into Lake Michigan .
  3. LaPorte County Health Department: working with state and local stakeholders to enhance public notification of Lake Michigan beach advisories in LaPorte County
  4. Indiana University : assessing and evaluating the communication about Lake Michigan beach advisories and health information to Lake and Porter County stakeholders.

Projects for 2005

IDEM identified three projects to fund for the 2005 beach season:

  1. The Gary Sanitary District: Validate and operationally Test a Predictive Model for E. coli concentration at Ogden Dunes, Wells Street, Marquette, and Lake Street beaches;
  2. E.L.E. Institute (Environment, Law and Economics Institute): Protecting the Health of our Communities through Education: A BEACH Act Initiative, and
  3. Gary Sanitary District: 'SwimCast' System for Buffington Harbor Beach in the City of Gary.

What can you do to reduce pollution at the beach!

The most effective way to reduce beach water pollution is through pollution prevention efforts. Many of these efforts will require large-scale activities by the state, counties, or municipalities to improve wastewater treatment plants and stop direct discharges of raw sewage into the water from combined and sanitary sewer overflows. But individual pollution prevention efforts can also help reduce beach water pollution. For example:

  • Conserve water,
  • Keep septic systems properly maintained,
  • Dispose of boat sewage in onshore sanitary facilities or at pump-out stations,
  • Properly dispose of animal waste from pets,
  • Refrain from feeding shorebirds,
  • Keep food in enclosed containers,
  • Remove litter from the beach,
  • Change diapers frequently while at the beach, and properly dispose of them into trash cans,
  • Check beach advisories for current information, and
  • Move to another area, as specified.

For more information, call the IDEM Northwest Regional Office at (219) 757-0265 or toll-free at (888) 209-8892.