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GLIN==> Adopt-a-Beach Comes to Milwaukee

For Immediate Release 

Contacts: Stephanie Smith (312)939-0838 x 5

June 30, 2004

Erika Jensen (414)559-0317

Adopt-a-Beach Comes to Milwaukee

Milwaukee-area residents wanting to help take back their beaches after this spring’s unprecedented sewage dumping into Lake Michigan can do their part just by keeping an eye on their favorite beach. 

The Lake Michigan Federation’s award-winning Adopt-a-Beach program is coming ashore to Milwaukee this summer with the hiring of a local outreach associate to coordinate and work with area volunteers. 

"At a time when bacteria levels and beach closings are in the headlines, Adopt-a-Beach gets people moving in a positive direction with regard to beach health," said Stephanie Smith, who heads the Federation’s education and Adopt-a-Beach programs.

Erika Jensen, assistant researcher with the Great Lakes Water Institute in Milwaukee, is the new associate responsible for expanding the year-round Adopt-a-Beach program to Milwaukee. Jensen said the program aims to break down misconceptions about beach pollution and ease fears about visiting the beach.

"The goal is to get people excited about going to the beach and interested in what they can do about improving water quality in the area," she said. "People have become afraid of going to the beach because of all the closings in the last couple of years."

Adopt-a-Beach volunteers select their favorite beach and go to work recording and cleaning up litter, completing a physical survey of the beach’s topography, and performing simple water collection tests. The data highlights trends and patterns in the types of waste found along Lake Michigan’s shores, information the Federation uses in educating the public about how to keep beaches healthy. Adopt-a-Beach findings to date elsewhere around Lake Michigan have identified cigarette butts, food wrappers, and caps and lids as the chief forms of litter along the shoreline; volunteers’ water collection data has shown a connection between rain and elevated E. coli bacteria levels in lake water.

Jensen, who works in the Water Institute’s bacterial genetics lab with Sandra McLellan – known for her E. coli work relating to beach closings -- said her background helps her communicate issues affecting lake health. Those issues include everyday activities people typically don’t associate with harming water quality in Lake Michigan. "I don’t think people understand that how and what they do affects water quality – such as doing their laundry, littering, throwing pet waste on the ground and feeding gulls," Jensen said. "There’s a big disparity between what the scientific community knows and what the public knows, and I’m trying to bridge the gap by getting the information out to the public in a way people can actually make sense of it."

The two-year-old Adopt-a-Beach program, honored this year by the Chicago Public Schools, has more than 100 volunteer groups participating in a number of communities around Lake Michigan, among them Chicago, Grand Haven, Mich., and Door County, Wis. The local outreach position is funded by a grant from Rockwell Automation in Milwaukee. 

For more information or to volunteer contact Smith (Tues.-Thurs.) at 312-939-0838x5, or ssmith@lakemichigan.org <mailto:ejensen@lakemichigan.org>  or Jensen (Fri.) at 414-559-0317.

Formed in 1970, the Lake Michigan Federation is the oldest citizens' Great Lakes organization in North America. Its mission is to restore fish and wildlife habitat, conserve land and water, and eliminate pollution in the watershed of the largest lake within the United States. We achieve this through education, research, law, science, economics, and strategic partnerships. Additional information on the Federation is available at www.lakemichigan.org <http://www.www.lakemichigan.org/> . 

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