Highlighting a national report that beach closing and advisory days hit the second-highest level in more two decades, a local environmental group is calling for increased wastewater infrastructure.
The Natural Resources Defense Council's annual report analyzes beachwater testing results at more than 3,000 beaches, including those in Northwest Indiana. It found that closing and advisory days at beaches increased 29 percent from the previous year.
The increase is largely because of heavy rainfall in Hawaii, contamination from unidentified sources in California and oil washing up on the Gulf Coast from the BP disaster.
While most of Northwest Indiana's beach closings are attributed to "unknown," Save the Dunes Water Program Director Jen Birchfield said that stormwater runoff and sewer overflows are two common culprits of E. coli contamination.
"Our waterways and Lake Michigan are the backbone of our region, both as a natural resource and an economic engine," Nicole Barker, executive director of Save the Dunes, stated in a news release. "It is time to take meaningful action and secure funding to invest in critical upgrades to our aging storm and sewer infrastructure on both local and national scales."
Barker is hopeful after Northwest Indiana was picked recently as one of seven pilot project areas for a new Urban Waters Initiative program, designed to address urban waterway issues through partnerships.
Save the Dunes partnered with Portage to install a green roof at Imagination Glen and with Valparaiso to install a rain garden at Forest Park Golf Course. Those projects were done through an Indiana Department of Environmental Management grant to improve Salt Creek, a tributary to Lake Michigan.