September 19, 2014

Great Lakes Restoration Initiative could provide funding to fix Singing Bridge E. Coli issue

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WHITNEY TOWNSHIP — As of Nov. 23, $250 million was made available by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, via the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, for grants and projects to clean up the lakes and officials are hoping some of those funds can be put to use in clearing E. Coli bacteria out of the water at the Singing Bridge Public Access.

“We’ve got to put some initial proposals together at the beginning of December. All of these proposals will be due to the EPA by Jan. 29,” said Department of Environmental Quality Toxicologist Shannon Briggs. Briggs was present at a meeting held Nov. 11 at the Whitney Township Hall, which was aimed directly at coming up with a plan of action to combat the E. Coli presence at the Singing Bridge beach.

“Everything we talked about at that meeting has to be done,” she said.

Briggs added the topics of the meeting included conducting an investigation at the beach, monitoring the E. Coli levels, finding the source(s) of E. Coli and fixing the problem.

Township Supervisor Francis Semenick said Briggs mentioned getting grant monies through the GLRI at the meeting.

“She was pretty confident,” he said. “Hopefully that goes through.”

Semenick also added that the figure he heard talked about for the E. Coli project was roughly $10,000 - $15,000. However, the official amount of funding is being established by Central Michigan District Health Department Environmental Health Officers Mark Janeczko and Michelle Patton, who were not available for comment.

According to Briggs, the Singing Bridge issue isn’t an under the radar problem for the Michigan DEQ.

“It’s one of the beaches with the highest priority,” Briggs said. “It’s listed as an ‘area of concern’ – the Saginaw Bay.” She added it’s also on the DEQ’s non-attainment list, since it’s not meeting water quality standards.

“It’s a great beach,” Briggs said. “My goal is to keep Singing Bridge open all the time.

“I think we have all the ingredients and we can get to work out there next summer,” she continued. “As soon as we get funding, we’ll begin to work.”

Karen Thompson, an EPA spokesperson, said the GLRI funds are available for grants and projects that aim to restore water quality in all of the Great Lakes. An EPA statement on the GLRI said it’s purpose is to “jump start the long term goals of safely eating the fish and swimming at beaches, assure safe drinking water, provide a healthy ecosystem for fish and wildlife.”

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