Great Lakes Syringes, Again (and Again)

This wouldn’t be so damn annoying if it weren’t so damn common. Great Lakes beach-goers are being warned to avoid … muck? No. E. coli bacteria? No, not this time. Syringes? Yes, syringes, from Milwaukee.

“The Department of Natural Resources and Environment has received recent
reports of syringes washing up on Lake Michigan-area beaches from Shelby to Arcadia,” officials said in a news release issued today. “It is suspected that the syringes are from a major combined sewer overflow that occurred in the Milwaukee area on July 25.”

July 25? Today is Aug. 12. Thanks for the quick notice.

“Wind and lake currents are suspected to have carried the syringes and other waste across the lake, resulting in the waste washing up on the Michigan shoreline. The U.S. Coast Guard has also been made aware of the incident and is investigating its source.”

Awesome. This isn’t the first time I’ve come across such a warning.

Check out this news release from April 2006, issued by then-Michigan Department of Environmental Quality:

“The return of warm weather means that people across Michigan will be headed back to our beaches and parks, and enjoying time on the water. With this increased outdoor activity, there are also increased hazards that can be encountered including finding used syringes in the water or on the shore.”

What? Who was investigating back then? The DEQ. More than four years ago.

“Improper disposal of multiple syringes may be related to illegal management of medical waste by a doctor or veterinarian’s office, a clinic, or a tattoo facility,” the release said.

Milwaukee also sent us some syringes in 2008, notes the Lansing State Journal.

So, here we are in August 2010, still warning people about syringes on Great Lakes beaches. I look forward to a release detailing penalties for depositing this garbage on our beaches, Milwaukee. Which is, according to Alice Cooper, Algonquin for “the good land.”

— Photo via LegalJuice



  1. There’s an even longer history of syringes on Lake Michigan shores and I’m old enough to remember it, unfortunately. It happened in the late summer and fall of 1988. It caused a public uproar and the news media chomped on it. The furor led to a federal “Medical Waste Tracking Act” which has since expired. If you live long enough you’ll see syringes on Lake Michigan beaches four or five times, it appears.

    And this: (Incorrectly excludes Great Lakes.)

  2. What I want to know is how any syringes got mixed into a combined sewer overflow. Did someone flush them down a commode, one by one? Down a sink? Did someone throw them into a storm sewer? I can see someone throwing them into the trash, as bad as that would be. But it would seem to take more work to dispose of them into water, or in a place that would lead to water, especially at the numbers they’re talking about.

    It’s bizarre.

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