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Low Lake Levels Reveal More Debris On Great Lakes Beaches

Volunteers with the Shedd Aquarium clean up trash and debris from the nearby 12th Street Beach on April 18, 2012, after the aquarium adopted the beach for Earth Day. The aquarium will sweep the beach once a month through October to clean up trash and debris left in the sand. (Credit: CBS)

Volunteers with the Shedd Aquarium clean up trash and debris from the nearby 12th Street Beach on April 18, 2012, after the aquarium adopted the beach for Earth Day. The aquarium will sweep the beach once a month through October to clean up trash and debris left in the sand. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Lower water levels in the Great Lakes have been revealing more than just extra beach land. Less water reveals garbage that had been hidden in Lake Michigan and the other Great Lakes, according to the Alliance for the Great Lakes.

Alliance spokeswoman Jamie Cross said tires and more are being spotted along the Great Lakes beaches.

“Last year, our volunteers – Great Lakes-wide – collected over 42,000 pounds of debris,” she said. “Last year, I think we collected the most we’ve ever collected, and I don’t believe that’s because there’s more trash out there. I think it’s because we have more volunteers that are out there doing great work.”

Annual beach clean-ups take place between now and the end of May, and Cross said there could wind up being more garbage in the lakes this year because of the recent rainy weather.

“When we have the wet weather, debris that collects on our city streets enters our stormwater systems, and is discharged into the lakes, and often ends up on our beaches,” she said.

The most common type of trash found on Great Lakes beaches is cigarette lighters.

“Generally, we find a lot of items that are left behind by individuals; things like food-related items –wrappers, and papers, and packaging,” she said.

Cross said extra volunteers are always welcome for beach clean-ups. Go to greatlakes.org to find the beach clean-up nearest you.