State Summary: Indiana

Ranked 25th in Beachwater Quality (out of 30 states)
10% of samples exceeded national standards for designated beach areas in 2012

Protecting swimmers from bacteria, viruses, and other contaminants in beachwater requires leadership. Federal officials must help clean up polluted stormwater runoff—the most commonly identified cause of beach closings and swimming advisories—by developing national rules that require pollution sources to prevent stormwater where it starts by retaining it on-site.

The Environmental Protection Agency must also set beachwater quality standards protective of human health and provide states with the support they need to monitor beach pollution and notify the public when pollution levels are high.

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Indiana 2012 Beachwater Quality Summary

Reported Sources of Beachwater Contamination
(number of closing/advisory days)

  • 316 (99%) unknown contamination sources
  • 1 (<1%) other, unspecified contamination sources
  • 1 (<1%) wildlife

Indiana has 34 Great Lakes beaches stretching along 45 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline in three counties. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) administers the state's beach monitoring and notification program, which is voluntary for eligible (non-federally owned) beaches.

What Are the Water Quality Challenges and Improvements in Indiana?

Michigan City's Efforts to Improve Water Quality

The Michigan City Parks and Recreation Department has employed a variety of best management practices at Washington Park Beach and Sheridan Beaches, where water quality continued to improve in 2012. Several of these strategies are aimed at reducing the number of birds at the beach—including prohibiting the feeding of wildlife, covering trash receptacles, and imposing fines for littering. The city also conducts a goose eradication program and revised its beach grooming techniques so that sand is left soft and furrowed instead of compacted and smooth (a condition that fosters bacteria). The Michigan City Parks Department also hosts "Adopt a Beach" cleanup events at Washington Park Beach and Sheridan Beaches twice a year.

Employing Predictive Models

With the future of BEACH Act funding unclear, IDEM plans to pursue low-cost alternatives to traditional E. coli monitoring, such as predictive modeling. In 2011, IDEM partnered with the U.S. Geological Survey (U.S.G.S) and Michigan City to develop a predictive model for Washington Park Beach, the only Tier 1 (high-priority) beach in LaPorte County. The model was developed using 2011 data and validated with 2012 beach data. IDEM plans to employ the new predictive model during the 2013 beach season.

During 2012, Ogden Dunes East and Ogden Dunes West also utilized a predictive model developed by USGS. Routine E. coli sampling and model sampling were conducted four days per week at both beaches. If a sample exceeded the state's 235 cfu/100mL single-sample maximum (ssm), or if the model predicted an exceedance of the state standard on the basis of data inputs, an advisory or closure was issued for that beach. Unfortunately, throughout the 2012 beach season the model was unable to predict exceedances. Due to the low sample exceedance rates of both Ogden Dunes beaches and the limited sensitivity of the model, IDEM is unsure of the future viability of this predictive model and will not be implementing it during the 2013 beach season.

New Efforts to Improve Water Quality at Jeorse Park Beach

Historically, Jeorse Park Beach in East Chicago has been Indiana's poorest-performing beach in regard to E. coli concentrations. Hydrodynamic modeling is being planned for Jeorse Park Beach in 2013, the results of which will help determine alternatives for improving water quality. Additionally, East Chicago will increase its monitoring frequency to seven days a week during the 2013 beach season.

What Does Beachwater Monitoring Show?1

In 2012, Indiana reported 33 Great Lakes beaches, of which 10 (30%) were monitored daily, 15 (45%) were monitored three to five days per week , and the 8 Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore beach sites (24%) once a week. In 2012, 10% of all reported beach monitoring samples exceeded the state's daily maximum bacterial standard of 235 colonies/100 ml. The beaches with the highest percent exceedance rates of the daily maximum standard in 2012 were Jeorse Park Beach I (70%), Jeorse Park Beach II (53%), Buffington Harbor Beach (31%), Hammond Marina East Beach (27%), and Whihala Beach West (17%) in Lake County; and Indiana Dunes State Park West Beach in Porter County (15%). Lake County had the highest exceedance rate of the daily maximum standard in 2012 (17%), followed by Porter (6%) and LaPorte (6%). NRDC considers all reported samples individually (without averaging) when calculating the percent exceedance rates in this analysis. This includes duplicate samples and samples taken outside the official beach season, if any.

Indiana Percent of Samples Exceeding the State's Daily Maximum Bacterial Standard for 27 Beaches Reported 2008-2012*

    * Please note that only samples from a common set of beaches monitored each year from 2008-2012 are included in the bar chart.

    What Are Indiana's Sampling Practices?

    Generally the monitoring season in Indiana is from late May through the first week of September, but at some beaches sampling may begin or end a week earlier or later.

    Sampling practices, locations, standards, and notification protocols are set by the state in consultation with the beach managers for the beaches receiving BEACH Act funding. Specific monitoring locations are used each year to ensure consistency and representativeness of data. Samples are taken in knee-deep water. Monitoring frequency is based on a prioritized ranking of beaches, with higher-priority beaches receiving more frequent sampling. The rankings are based on many variables, which include (but are not limited to) bather use, proximity to known point and non-point sources, and likely effects from heavy rainfall events. The eight Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore beach sites (Kemil, Lake View, Mount Baldy, Dunbar, West, Central, Portage Lakefront, and Porter) are monitored weekly and voluntarily post monitoring and notification data to the Indiana BeachGuard website, even though they are not eligible for BEACH Act funding and are not included in the state program.

    Some beaches are routinely sampled seven days a week, and their monitoring schedules do not change when they are closed or under advisory. At some of the beaches that are not sampled seven days a week, additional samples may be collected during a closing or advisory; at other beaches, the monitoring frequency is not changed


    How Many Beach Closings and Advisories Were Issued in 2012?2

    Total closure/advisory days for 175 events lasting six consecutive weeks or less decreased 13% to 318 days in 2012 from 367 days in 2011. For previous years, there were 406 days in 2010, 387 days in 2009, 333 days in 2008, 213 days in 2007, 111 days in 2006, and 131 days in 2005. There were no extended or permanent events in 2012. Extended events are those in effect more than six weeks but not more than 13 consecutive weeks; permanent events are in effect for more than 13 consecutive weeks. For the 175 events lasting six consecutive weeks or less, 99% (315) of closing/advisory days were due to monitoring that revealed elevated bacteria levels, and1% (3) were preemptive due to other reasons.

    How Does Indiana Determine When to Warn Visitors About Swimming?

    Both closures and advisories are issued in Indiana. If any sample exceeds the 235 cfu/100 mL single-sample maximum, Indiana requires that either an advisory or a closure be issued; however, the decision on whether to post an advisory or to close the beach is left to the discretion of the individual beach manager. The only exception is Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, where an advisory is always issued when monitoring results exceed 235 cfu/100 ml. No geometric mean standard is applied when making daily closure and advisory decisions. Swimmers are informed of poor water quality during advisories, and swimming is not permitted at beaches that are closed. The beaches participating in IDEM's Lake Michigan Beaches Monitoring and Notification Program post all advisories and closures on the IDEM BeachGuard website and post signs at the beach.

    Beach managers may preemptively issue advisories or closures if conditions exist that may result in elevated E. coli levels, such as heavy rainfall or combined sewer overflow events. LaPorte County issues an advisory if excessive debris, such as oil globules or algae, is found in the lake or on the beach. Beach managers can also close a beach for weather and lake conditions, such as a rip current.

    Indiana 2012 Monitoring Results and Closing/Advisory Days

    Assigned Monitoring Frequency
    Total Samples
    % of samples exceeding
    state standards
    Closing or Advisory days
      NOTE: Data and state-specific information for this summary were collected from U.S. EPA, direct conversations with beach managers in the state, state grant reports to U.S. EPA for BEACH Act funding, and the state water quality website. The information in this state summary reflects current data as of June 7, 2013.
    1. If the 2012 percent exceedance values in this summary don't match, why not? The value at the top of the page reflects the proportion of samples exceeding the national single-sample maximum standard for designated beach areas. The values in the "What Does Beach Monitoring Show?" section reflect the proportion of samples exceeding the state standard, which in some states is more or less stringent than the national designated beach standard. Additionally, only samples from a common set of beaches monitored each year from 2008-2012 are included in the bar chart. Because some beaches were not monitored in each of those years, the percent exceedance for this subset of beaches may not have the same value as the percent exceedance for all of the beaches monitored in 2012.
    2. Year-to-year changes in closing/advisory days should not necessarily be interpreted as an indication of the level of bacterial contamination. In some states and localities, the number of beaches and/or beach monitoring frequency may not be consistent from one year to the next, and beaches may be closed or under a swimming advisory for reasons other than known or suspected bacterial contamination. Other reasons include, but are not limited to, chemical/oil spills, medical waste washing up on shore, dangerous currents, lack of lifeguards, etc. In addition, because NRDC's totals of closing/advisory events focus on those events lasting six consecutive weeks or less, those tallies do not account for longer-duration closings or advisories. For trends in water quality, please refer to NRDC's year-to-year comparison of percent exceedance rates of state water quality standards.


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