Jan 15, 2004

Michigan Health Officials to Hunt Down Pollution Source

Michigan's Macomb County Health Department plans to track down the source of E. coli bacteria that has significantly polluted one of its beaches during the past two years.

New Baltimore's Lake St. Clair beach was closed to swimming 37 times last year and 36 times in 2002 – the most of any of Macomb County's six beaches, records show.

County Commissioner Kurt Kramer was upset about the closings and is pressing health officials to find the source.

"I don't want this shoved under the rug," Kramer told The Detroit News.

Macomb health officials told Kramer this week that environmental investigators have been working to find the source, but will ratchet up their efforts to find a solution.

Elwin Coll, supervisor of the environmental division of the health department, said investigators have found some illegal sewer connections that may have contributed to the high bacteria counts.

Health investigators took tests this week in Crapeau Creek, where treated water from the New Baltimore wastewater treatment plant was discharged, to see if the bacteria levels were high.

The results were not immediately available. The creek empties into Lake St. Clair near the beach.

Craig Higgins, superintendent of the treatment plant, said separate tests taken in the past of the water discharged from the plant show safe levels of bacteria.

Gary White, associate director of the county environmental health division, said it's possible the contaminants are coming from storm sewers.