Find a way to test beach water

Whether the feds pay for it or not, the water at Ottawa County's public beaches needs to be tested.
Dec 6, 2012

It was announced last week that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will eliminate $274,000 that has provided the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (B.E.A.C.H.) Act to monitor Great Lakes beaches in Michigan.

There are a few days each summer when the E. coli level has been found to be too high to allow swimming. E. coli is a type of bacteria found in the intestines and feces of animals and humans that produces a powerful toxin and can cause severe illness.

Money for the monitoring program was “zeroed out” when Congress couldn’t come up with a budget agreement and passed a “Continuing Resolution” — which authorized, but didn’t appropriate, funding for the program.

Knowing how Washington operates, these funds still might become available. But, if they don't, the state and Ottawa County need to come up with a plan to test water at area beaches.

This isn’t a luxury we can do without. Why do residents enjoy living here, and why do tourists flock to the area? Our beaches are one of the main reasons. And residents and visitors alike assume the “pure” in the state’s wildly popular Pure Michigan advertising campaign refers in part to the waters of the Great Lakes and our hundreds of inland lakes.

We challenge our state legislators and county commissioners to work with county health departments to have a standby plan at the ready in case the federal funding doesn’t show up.

If other sources of funding are needed, the state and county should take a look at using some Pure Michigan-inspired sales taxes. This could include a few cents a day on car rentals and a few pennies a night on hotel rooms.

Coming up with funds for monitoring is a lot less costly than scaring away beach-goers.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to news@grandhaventribune.com or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.

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