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Illinois Beach Water Reportedly Among Nation's Most Contaminated

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Illinois beaches located along the shores of Lake Michigan are home to some of the highest contamination levels in the country, a National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) study released Wednesday revealed.

According to the "Testing the Waters 2011" report, Illinois beaches' water quality ranked 26th out of the 30 states included in the study. Water samples in only Louisiana, Ohio, Indiana and Michigan more frequently fell short of the national safety standard.

Among the most often contaminated beaches in Illinois, the Winnetka Elder Park Beach and Winnetka Centennial Dog Beach stood out from the rest of the 61 surveyed. The worst Chicago beaches were South Shore, Rainbow Beach, Jackson Park (63rd Street) Beach, Montrose Beach and 31st Street Beach. North Point Marina Beach in Lake County was the only Illinois beach that made the report's "repeat offender" list.

The Great Lakes region, home to the world's largest freshwater ecosystem, was home to the most frequently contaminated water because they are "perennial victims of overwhelmed and broken infrastructure that damages water quality," according to the report. The write-up specifically mentioned Gary, Indiana for its discharging of some 6.8 billion gallons of both raw and partially treated sewage directly into the lake as an example of the problems the region's lake water endures.

Across the country, the number of beach closings on account of contamination were reported at their second-highest rate in two decades, having increased by 29 percent in 2010 over the year before.

"The news is not good," Karen Hobbs, a senior policy analyst for the NRDC told the Chicago Sun-Times in response to the report. Hobbs added, however, that since they now understand the problems underlying poor water quality in the nation's beaches, now is simply "the time to act."

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