South Shore Beach among ‘most contaminated in nation,' group says

Milwaukee is surrounded by water, and that's what one group celebrated Sunday, Aug. 14 at South Shore Beach, water was part of a much deeper conversation.

The annual "We Are Water" event returned for the first time after a two-year break during the pandemic. The focus this year was on reconnecting people with the water and finding ways to keep it clean.

With cooler temperatures Sunday, the fall-like feel served as a harbinger of what's to come. With summer slipping away, you might dip your toes in the water a few more times, but summer isn't the only time you should think about Lake Michigan.

"If we heal the water, the water heals us, and so we have to take care of the water and celebrate it, as well," said Brenda Coley, Milwaukee Water Commons. 

Milwaukee Water Commons and partnering organizations put on Sunday's "We Are Water" event, celebrating Lake Michigan and the beaches in the Milwaukee area. It was an opportunity for the groups to talk about the restoration work happening at the swimmable beaches in the city.

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"I think that there is a heightened effort to keep the beaches clean," said Coley. "They’re cleaner than they’ve ever been before, but we have some issues still."

Milwaukee Water Commons, a nonprofit environmental justice organization, says that issue is plastics. Their focus is on engaging the community in terms of stewardship, water quality and policies. 

South Shore Beach is one of the areas of concern.

"This beach is actually one of the most contaminated beaches in the nation – in the Great Lakes, specifically," said Kirsten Shead. "It has to do with the way it's built and the way that the water moves through it."

"We Are Water" organizers said this year, they're focused on bringing people back to the water and celebrating it.