How Safe Is Your Beach? NRDC's Latest Report Reveals Marine Health

estuary alameda photo

Photo by clogozm via Flickr CC

Every year, the Natural Resources Defense Council runs a survey of our beaches and marine habitats to find out which are safe and which need help to recover from abuse. Earlier in the month, the organization put out a map specifically of beaches closed by the Gulf oil disaster. But now, its 2010 report for all the beaches in the country is ready. As you plan your seaside vacation or pack a picnic for an afternoon on the sand, you might want to first check out the pollution status of your destination. The 2010 Testing The Waters Report finds that "the number of closing and advisory days at ocean, bay and Great Lakes beaches topped 18,000 for the fifth consecutive year, confirming that our nation's beaches continue to suffer from bacterial pollution that puts swimmers at risk."

While nearly three quarters of the 2009 beach closings and advisories were due to bacteria levels exceeding health and safety standards, this year there's a new threat to many beaches -- oil. Because of the Gulf oil disaster, the new NRDC report is also covering current events at beaches, rather than the usual survey of the previous year's closings.

NRDC's report allows you to check on beach health state by state, looking at the beaches closest to you, or checking out beaches elsewhere.

nrdc closed beaches map image

Image via NRDC

The report also makes several recommendations for protecting beach-goers from getting sick while trying to enjoy the coastlines, including making the EPA tighten and enforce controls on sources of beachwater pollution, which is mainly stormwater runoff; getting congress to pass the Clean Coastal Environment and Publich Health Act and the Sewage Overflow Community Right-to-Know Act; putting a portion of tourism revenues to monitoring and prevention programs; and of course getting individuals to help clean up beach pollution, including using natural fertlizers in gardens, disposing of litter properly, and ditching toxic household products.

Here is a great video explaining the problems with stormwater runoff and why this is such a big focus for the NRDC when trying to eliminate beach pollution:

Keep up on more ocean news during Blue August on TreeHugger, where we cover everything from the health of the deep blue sea to the politics of the fresh water crisis.

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