The Great Lakes are a source of water for municipal, agricultural and industrial use, and support significant recreation, commercial and sport fishing industries. Every year millions of people visit the 500 plus recreational beaches in the Great Lakes. An increasing public health risk has been suggested with increased evidence of fecal contamination at the shoreline. To investigate the transport and fate of fecal pollution at Great Lakes beaches and the health risk associated with swimming at these beaches, the near-shore waters of Mt Baldy Beach, Lake Michigan and Trail Creek, a tributary discharging into the lake were examined for fecal pollution indicators. A model of surf zone hydrodynamics coupled with a transport model with first-order inactivation of pollutant was used to understand the relative importance of different processes operating in the surf zone (e.g. physical versus biological processes). The Enterococcus human fecal pollution marker, which targets a putative virulence factor, the enterococcal surface protein (esp) in Enterococcus faecium, was detected in 2/28 samples (7%) from the tributaries draining into Lake Michigan and in 6/30 samples (20%) from Lake Michigan beaches. Preliminary analysis suggests that the majority of fecal indicator bactateria variation and water quality changes at the beaches can be explained by inputs from the influential stream and hydrometeorological conditions. Using modeling methods to predict impaired water quality may help reduce potential health threats to recreational visitors.
Additional publication details
The presence and near-shore transport of human fecal pollution in Lake Michigan beaches