U.S. Water News Online
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Health officials want to use DNA tests
to see if seagull droppings are polluting Lake Michigan with bacteria
and forcing recent beach closures.
It's possible the birds are the source of elevated E. coli counts
at some beaches, said Mark Pfister, a health department biologist in
Lake County, north of Chicago.
``It's not very pleasant to talk about, but we want to take very
fresh feces from the beach so we can incubate out the E. coli strands
we find for the genetic testing,'' said Pfister, who attended a
public meeting on the issue in Lake Forest.
The department will recommend ways to try to curtail the bird
population if the gull droppings match E. coli in the water, he said.
The North Shore Sanitary District was blamed for some recent Lake
County beach closures after sewage spilled into the lake.
District officials are eager to prove the spill wasn't to blame.
Farther south in Chicago, which is in Cook County, some beaches
were beginning to reopen after being closed since because of E. coli
bacteria in the water.
Researchers say weather -- heavy rains, high winds, warmth and
hazy skies -- can also cause bacteria levels to increase.
Not everyone at the public meeting believed gulls were a major
source of pollution.
``All of you should not come away from this meeting saying 'more
gulls, more problems,''' said Donald Dann, a Sierra Club member.
``Testing has been done before, and there's still not unequivocal
evidence that there is a link.''
At the Lake County beaches where the birds aren't as numerous,
health officials acknowledge they can't easily be blamed for the
``It just can't be the gulls alone,'' said state Rep. Susan
Garrett, D-Lake Forest, who organized the meeting.
Health officials also cited raw sewage, stormwater runoff, aging
sewer pipes and stagnant water caused by recent dry conditions as
possible causes for the bacteria.
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