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Lansing — Officials say Michigan is becoming the first state to monitor beaches using a new method to determine quickly if water near shore is contaminated with bacteria that can make people sick.

The new testing method identifies DNA of the E. coli bacteria in water samples. It provides results the same day a sample is taken, enabling local officials to close beaches rapidly when the water is unsafe.

Traditional methods required waiting to see if cultures would grow in water samples. That meant beach closings often came too late.

Department of Environmental Quality spokeswoman Karen Tommasulo says officials will use the old and new methods this summer to compare results and make sure the new process works. A number of local health departments have received grants to implement the new system.

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