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Great Lakes Beach Closures: Using Satellite Images to Identify Areas at Risk

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Abstract:Are people getting sick from swimming at Great Lakes beaches? Some are. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, swimmers are experiencing an increase in bacterial borne illnesses from swimming at many popular Great Lakes beaches. The beaches in the Great Lakes basin are vital national resources that provide recreation to more than a tenth of the U.S. population.. The high density of urban and industrial centers in the basin significant water quality impacts for the Lake's ecosystems and human health problems for beach visitors. Lake Michigan alone had over 900 beach closings in 2002. The waterborne bacteria E. coli and fecal coliform are the primary pathogens leading to beach closures. Water quality testing programs exist, but they are unable to sample and analyze with the frequency and speed required to fully ensure adequate diagnosis of beach conditions and to provide warnings of unsafe pathogen levels. As a result, many people become sick each year from swimming at beaches that had high levels of undetected pathogens due to gaps in laboratory sampling programs. Many sources contribute to unhealthy water quality: sewage discharges and overflows from treatment plants and inadequate septic systems, animal populations, recreational boating, and environmental conditions such as high rainfall, wind and waves. The exact mechanisms that lead to unsafe exposure to pathogens and the relationships between the pathogen source and environmental conditions are not yet fully understood. This investigation uses satellite imagery of Lake Michigan to examine the role of nearshore lake conditions as input to beach closure episodes. Data from the MODIS and Landsat TM sensors will be processed to derive information on the timing and locations of sediment and organic material plumes in the nearshore environment that may contribute to episodes of unhealthy pathogens. If nearshore sediment plumes are involved in the outbreak mechanism, early identification and characterization using daily satellite remote sensing measurements may aid in prediction of episodes of unhealthy pathogen levels, guide laboratory sampling efforts, and provide early warning of beach closures-- before people are exposed. Partners include the US EPA BEACHES program, EPA Regions, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Naval Research Laboratory, and state and local environmental resource groups.
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Citation:Williams, D. J., K. Endres, and D. Pilant. Great Lakes Beach Closures: Using Satellite Images to Identify Areas at Risk. Presented at EPA Science Forum 2004, Washington, DC, June 1-3, 2004.
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Contact: Chris Siebert - (702) 798-2234 or siebert.christopher@epa.gov
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Division: Environmental Sciences Division
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Branch: Landscape Characterization Branch (RTP)
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Product Type: Abstrct/Oral
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Presented: 06/01/2004
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Related Entries:
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Bullet Item Remote Sensing Technologies Applications Research
spacer Relationship Reason:   A Project of the Product
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Last Updated on Monday, October 22, 2007
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