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Bathing Beaches

Contact: Shannon Briggs 517-290-8249

EGLE's report entitled "A Strategic Environmental Quality Monitoring Program for Michigan's Surface Waters" (Strategy) describes the monitoring activities that are necessary for a comprehensive assessment of water quality in Michigan's surface waters.  One component of the Strategy is improved support for public beach monitoring.

The Michigan Water Quality Standards (WQS) contain numerical criteria for E. coli as an indicator of the potential human health risk from partial and total body contact recreation, which is a designated use of the waters of the state.  Although the public bathing beach section of the Public Health Code references the WQS, the Code does not authorize the state to monitor beaches.  Furthermore, the Code states that local health departments may test and otherwise evaluate the quality of the water at public beaches.  The authority to close public beaches also rests with the local health departments.  EGLE's primary role is to compile data to evaluate overall water quality, and to support local health departments who use the information for to assess the need for beach closings.

The specific objectives of the beach monitoring program element are to:

  1. Support county health departments in determining whether waters of the state are safe for total body contact recreation.
  2. Evaluate the effectiveness of EGLE's programs in protecting waters of the state from bacteria/E. coli contamination.
  3. Develop and maintain a database into which counties can enter their beach monitoring data, and which the public can access for the latest information.

The beach monitoring program element consists of two components that, in combination, provide data necessary to achieve these objectives.  These include:

  • Grants to local governments/health departments; and
  • Development and maintenance of a statewide beach database.

Grants are awarded to local governments/county health departments each year to monitor public beaches.  Special emphasis is placed on beaches along the Great Lakes and/or in state parks.  On average, a total of approximately $150,000 is made available for grants.  The grants are meant to serve as seed money to help local governments establish or expand beach monitoring activities.  The database has been developed and is available at EGLE's BeachGuard web site.  Counties enter their data directly into the database.

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