How Do You Define 'Clean'

Pere Marquette Beach, located in Muskegon, MI on the shores of Lake Michigan, is a nationally certified clean beach three years running. It's regularly rated one of the more attractive beaches in Michigan. And it's one of two beaches in all the Great Lakes region to be recognized by the nonprofit Clean Beaches Council's Blue Wave Campaign, which promotes clean and safe beaches. (North Beach in Racine, WI is the other.) National Geographic has even been there!

So it's somewhat surprising that health officials closed the stretch of shoreline to the public twice in the past week for pollution and safety-related problems. A potentially hazardous algal bloom kept swimmers out of the water last weekend, when temperatures passed a steamy 90 degrees. And sampling on Tuesday revealed elevated levels of E coli - a common indicator of fecal contamination - and closed the beach for yet another day, according to a report in yesterday's Muskegon Chronicle.

No doubt the Great Lakes are cleaner today than they were 30 years ago. And this event might just be some idiot emptying the head on his Sea Ray. But closing such a highly decorated and relatively isolated beach like Pere Marquette park because of contamination is not only ironic. It's symbolic of the ongoing degradation of the Great Lakes water supply and telling of the work yet to be done.