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The Five Dirtiest & Most Polluted Beaches in Chicago

When summer finally hits Chicago, one can expect to see the city's beaches crowded with sunbathers and swimmers. However, some of Chicago's most popular beaches are also some of the city's dirtiest. In recent years, Chicago's beaches have had encounters with dangerous E. coli bacteria and even asbestos. However, today, water pollution and litter have become the biggest threats to the Windy City's beaches. The Natural Resources Defense Council has studied Illinois' many beaches and published data on the water pollution levels of each beach. For our list, we utilized this information from the NRDC combined with Yelp reviews of Chicago beaches that mention the words "dirty", "garbage" and "trash". Let's take a look.

↑ Montrose Beach Located on the North Side, Montrose Beach is a popular destination for folks looking to grill out and relax. It's also a popular spot for dog owners, as the beach has a large section for pooches and their human companions to run free. However, the beach is often covered with trash, and the water is some of the most polluted in Chicago according to data from the Natural Resources Defense Council. More recently, the beach was trashed during a party that quickly escalated into a full-blown melee once police showed up.

↑ North Avenue Beach Though the water at North Avenue Beach is not nearly polluted as other nearby spots, the beach itself is often littered with garbage. North Avenue is a popular spot, as it is centrally located to multiple North Side neighborhoods and has a large section dedicated to volleyball courts. However, things can get hoppin' in the summer and the beach can start to resemble a giant sandy garbage dump.

↑ Fullerton Beach Technically part of North Avenue Beach, the beach area closest to Fullerton Avenue is often times referred to as Fullerton Beach by Lincoln Parkers and others who regularly hang out at the spot. However, this beach has the same issue with garbage and waste as its North Avenue counterpart. The beach is also located directly adjacent to a congested pedestrian and vehicle intersection with Fullerton Avenue, Lake Shore Drive and the Lake Front Trail all running into each other at one spot. The garbage cans surrounding the intersection are often overflowing with trash.
NRDC includes Fullerton Beach with the North Avenue Beach data.

↑ South Shore Beach Though this South Side beach is relatively free of garbage, the water is another story. Data from the NRDC shows that the water at South Shore Beach is just as polluted as the water at Montrose Beach.

↑ Rainbow Beach Right around the corner from the former U.S. Steel Southworks site lies Rainbow Beach Park. The water is not as polluted as Montrose Beach or even nearby South Shore Beach, however the numbers aren't flattering.

·Testing the Waters 2014: A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches [NRDC]
·State Summary: Illinois [NRDC]