In these stressful times, is there anything more relieving and refreshing than going for a swim? I think not. Our waterways provide us with a vital outlet for recreation. In Illinois, Lake Michigan provides so many, young and old alike, with an essential opportunity for enjoyment.
Much of my family is based in Oak Park, and some of my fondest memories with them are afternoons spent on the beaches off of Lake Shore Drive. Yet safe swimming in Lake Michigan and across the U.S. is under threat.
In 2018, half of American beaches registered at least one day in which their water reached unsafe levels of pollution. Sewer overflows and industrial runoff add harmful toxins into American waterways, resulting in approximately 57 million annual cases of illness in swimmers.
Out of 19 beaches tested throughout Illinois for unsafe levels of water pollution in 2018, all 19 were found to have at least one unsafe day. South Shore Beach in Chicago had an alarming 38 unsafe swimming days. The last thing you or I want to be worried about while swimming is raw sewage and chemical exposure.
All of this goes to show that we need increased federal funding for water infrastructure. Congress needs to protect our beaches from pollution, and our loved ones from illness. Last month, the House Appropriations Committee approved over $10 billion in funding for clean water nationwide, much of which will help reduce pollutants in our waterways. Now it’s time for the Senate to do the same. Here in Illinois, Senator [Dick] Durbin serves on the Appropriations Committee, and he has a chance to champion this movement, and continue his strong environmental record by ensuring Lake Michigan is safe for swimming.
Global Warming Solutions Fellow
Brooklyn, New York