Funds to test water for E. Coli staying downstate

Northern Michigan health officials say a lack of state funding will prevent them from testing water for E. Coli.

The thoughts of swimming and playing at the beach are probably not on most peoples' minds during November, but it TMs on the minds of northern Michigan health officials.

They say a lack of state funding will prevent them from testing water and warning the public when high levels of bacteria are found.

It's a safety concern. Part of the safety concern is water quality and if we can't monitor to know what the on-going water quality is, that's a risk, said Tom Buss, Grand Traverse County Director of Environmental Health.

As it stands now, northern Michigan waters will not be tested next year.

Macomb County along Lake St. Clair will be getting $100,000 to improve their testing system. That leaves only $52,000 for the rest of the state.

It is a little unfair that the money is being allocated towards one larger project and the on-going continuous support for regular beach monitoring has been lost, said Christine Crissman, Watershed Center Executive Director.

The tourism up here is very important to the life of not only Grand Traverse area but the region and to pull those funds so there's no more funding available for the monitoring it just seems rather silly, said Buss.

Although northwestern Michigan is a big tourist destination, it was not chosen for the funding because it's had fewer reports of e-coli, compared to other areas in the state.

In order for us to sustain that level of monitoring that are used in this area we're going to have to get more local support, said Crissman.

Michigan State Representatives Eileen Kowall and Anthony Forlini helped steer the money to Macomb County. Representative Kowall said they did not realize that there was such a small amount of money earmarked for testing. She added the Department of Environmental Quality did not see a problem with giving money to the project, and agreed to include it in the budget that was passed last June.