Is Your Beach Too Polluted? NRDC Annual Beach Report Reveals Second Highest Closing & Advisory Days In Two Decades

beach closed sign photo

Photo by Dave Lindblom via Flickr CC

The Natural Resources Defense Council has released its annual report on the state of US beaches, and the news isn't great. In the 21 years the organization has been tracking water quality at beaches and beach closures, this past year showed the second highest rate of closure and advisory days. However, four beaches still managed to make it to super-star status during 2010.
Testing the Waters: A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches looks at government data on beachwater testing at over 3,000 beaches across the US -- testing that is required under the federal BEACH Act. There was a 29% increase in closures or advisory days over the previous year. The report cites, "The increase is largely because of heavy rainfall in Hawaii, contamination from unidentified sources in California, and oil washing up in the Gulf of Mexico from the BP disaster." In fact, the report notes that there have been a total of 9,474 days of oil-related beach notices, advisories and closures at Gulf Coast beaches since the spill last year.

Despite this, four beaches made it to "super star" status, which means they got a five-star rating this year, and had perfect results the last three years in a row. They are:

· Delaware: Rehoboth Beach-Rehoboth Avenue Beach, in Sussex County

· Delaware: Dewey Beach, in Sussex County

· Minnesota: Park Point Lafayette Community Club Beach, in St. Louis County

· New Hampshire: Hampton Beach State Park in Rockingham County

On the flip side, the report also highlights the top 10 repeat offenders:

· California: Avalon Beach in Los Angeles County (3 of 5 monitored sections)

· California: Cabrillo Beach Station in Los Angeles County

· California: Doheny State Beach in Orange County (2 of 6 monitored sections)

· Florida: Keaton Beach in Taylor County

· Illinois: North Point Marina North Beach in Lake County

· New Jersey: Beachwood Beach West in Ocean County

· Ohio: Villa Angela State Park in Cuyahoga County

· Texas: Ropes Park in Nueces County

· Wisconsin: Eichelman beach in Kenosha County

· Wisconsin: South Shore Beach in Milwaukee

"Clean beachwater is not only good for public health, it supports healthy coastal economies that generate billions of dollars and support millions of American jobs," said David Beckman, Director of the Water Program at NRDC. "By taking steps to stop the biggest sources of pollution in the waves, we can help keep trips to beach carefree, and support our lucrative tourism industries nationwide."

So why do we care? According to the report, there are lots of reasons:

Beachwater pollution nationwide causes a range of waterborne illnesses in swimmers including stomach flu, skin rashes, pinkeye, ear, nose and throat problems, dysentery, hepatitis, respiratory ailments, neurological disorders and other serious health problems. For senior citizens, small children and people with weak immune systems, the results can be fatal. The incidence of infections has been steadily growing over the past several decades, and with coastal populations growing it is reasonable to expect this upward trend to continue until the pollution sources are addressed.

And if polluted beaches cause this much damage to humans swimming in the waters, imagine what it is doing to wildlife that lives in beach ecosystems.

The NRDC notes that change comes from farther inshore. Greening cities is a major solution to beach pollution, such as building urban areas with "porous pavement, green roofs, parks, roadside plantings and rain barrels" -- all things that prevent storm water runoff.

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More on NRDC Beach Reports
NRDC Maps Beaches Closed By Gulf Oil Spill
NRDC Offers Live Online Chat Discussing Beach Safety Tips
A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches
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