TRAVERSE CITY — Water pollution is a Great Lakes legacy.
And Michigan continues to battle factors that lead to poor water quality and stubborn pollution numbers, from aging and failing infrastructure to low lake levels, said Karen Hobbs, senior water policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“In the Great Lakes region, what we typically find is year after year, we have the highest violation rate of all coastal beach water standards,” Hobbs said. “We monitor 30 coastal states and Michigan is ranked 15.”
The NRDC gathers information on thousands of beaches nationwide to determine which are plagued by pollution and which test clean. Hobbs will present the latest findings from the annual report, “Testing the Waters: A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches,” Wednesday at 10 a.m. at Sunset Park, 651 E. Front St.
The report yields some positive news: The Grand Traverse region’s 2012 beach pollution exceedance rate fell to 4 percent from a rate of 9 percent in 2011.
Hobbs said the report doesn’t aim to keep beach-goers from enjoying the water.
“It’s far from that. We just want to make sure that when you go to the beach you’re an informed consumer,” she said, adding that people can prevent contracting a waterborne illnesses by checking for beach closures ahead of time.
The report is a collaboration with the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. Wednesday’s presentation will pinpoint the region’s water quality issues — such as low lake levels, invasive species and climate change — and address solutions, such as green infrastructure.
Hobbs will be joined by state Rep. Wayne Schmidt, Grand Traverse Pie Company Owner Mike Busley, the Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay Program Director Sarah U’Ren and Short’s Brewing Company Sustainability Specialist Matt Gacioch.
Gacioch said the brewery’s jump aboard NRDC’s Brewers for Clean Water Campaign, which calls upon President Barack Obama to identify waterways protected by the Clean Water Act, was a “no-brainer” because water is “the most important ingredient in beer.”
“Having access to clean water and quality water is so incredibly important and especially for brewing in northern Michigan, where it’s such an important part of our livelihood,” Gacioch said.
For information on beach closures, visit Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s map at deq.state.mi.us/beach/ and the EPA’s map at watersgeo.epa.gov/beacon2.