Two major beach trash wash-ups occurred in the summer of 2008 and 2010. In both cases, a large amount of trash covered our Lake Michigan beaches. The Adopt-A-Beach volunteers were quick to respond and spent hours cleaning the beaches and looking for trash that might identify the source of the trash. Heavy rains and flooding in southern Wisconsin and the Chicago area a couple of weeks before the trash appeared on our beaches was thought to be the cause.
The Alliance for the Great Lakes worked with our Adopt-A-Beach program and the Coast Guard to identify the source and find ways to keep this from happening in the future. Finally in November, 2011 the source of the problem was confirmed: flooding caused overflow in the storm sewer system in the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewer District resulting in raw sewage and trash being washed into Lake Michigan. The currents in the lake and westerly winds eventually resulted in the trash being washed up on our beautiful Lake Michigan beaches. Read more about the study on the web site for the Alliance for the Great Lakes.