Mitch McNeil, chairman of the the Surfrider Foundation's Chicago Chapter, said he began to surf the south end of Lake Michigan about 10 years ago and slowly got to know others who surf there.
"I started to hear the stories about people getting sick," he said. "I had some problems, too. I developed some skin rash symptoms a couple of times. It's partly my fault, because I didn't shower right away.
"I learned the hard way that you can't just let it fester on your skin, whatever it is."
McNeil connected with attorneys at the University of Chicago's Abrams Environmental Law Clinic, which eventually agreed to take on the lawsuit. Before moving forward, McNeil had to take the issue to Surfrider Foundation's national leadership, he said.
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