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Beach pollution report: What are America’s best and worst beaches?

America’s beaches had more than 20,000 closing and advisory days for the third consecutive year because of polluted water or threatened contamination, according to the 23rd annual beachwater quality report by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Beach With Sea WeedMore than 80 percent of the closings and advisories were issued because testing revealed bacteria levels in the water violated public health standards, the council said. The main cause of this pollution is stormwater runoff and sewage.

The council’s annual report card on America’s beaches this year – “Testing the Waters: A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches – collects and analyzes the latest beachwater testing data results from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state beach coordinators at more than 3,000 beach testing locations nationwide.

The report examines the causes of water pollution that effect America’s beaches and offers ways to keep pollution out of beaches, lakes, and rivers.

The report provides a five-star rating guide for consumers to 200 of the nation’s popular beaches, evaluating them for water quality and best practices for testing and public notification. This year, the report awards 13 beaches with a five-star “Superstar” rating, and highlights 11 “Repeat Offenders,” which repeatedly exhibit chronically high bacteria counts.

The council’s report also includes an updated zip code searchable map of more than 3,000 beaches nationwide, which includes a mobile application, so users can check water quality, monitoring, closing and swimming advisory information at their local beaches.

This year, “Testing the Waters” highlights two actions that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency can take to protect people at the beach, said Jon Devine, council senior attorney.

  • Because polluted runoff is the biggest known source of beachwater pollution, the EPA should reform and enforce the national requirements that govern sources of polluted stormwater to ensure that runoff is controlled using innovative green infrastructure solutions.
  • The EPA should reconsider its new recreational beachwater quality criteria, which leave beachgoers inadequately protected and unnecessarily exposed to bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can make them sick.

The nation’s 13 “superstar” beaches

  • Alabama: Gulf Shores Public Beach in Baldwin County
  • Alabama: Gulf State Park Pavilion in Baldwin County
  • California: Bolsa Chica Beach in Orange County
  • California: Newport Beach in Orange
  • California: San Clemente State Beach in Orange County
  • Delaware: Dewey Beach - Dagsworthy in Sussex County
  • Delaware: Rehoboth Beach in Sussex County
  • Maryland: Ocean City at Beach 6 in Worcester County
  • Michigan: Bay City State Recreation Area in Bay County
  • Minnesota: Park Point Franklin Park / 13th Street South Beach Park Point in St. Louis County
  • Minnesota: Lafayette Community Club Beach in St. Louis County
  • New Hampshire: Hampton Beach State Park in Rockingham County
  • New Hampshire: Wallis Sands Beach in Rockingham County

The nation’s 11 “repeat offenders”

  • California: Avalon Beach in Los Angeles
  • California: Doheny State Beach in Orange County
  • California: Poche County Beachin Orange County
  • Indiana: Jeorse Park Beach in Lake County
  • New Jersey: Beachwood Beach in Ocean County
  • New York: Ontario Beach in Monroe County
  • Ohio: Lakeshore Park in Ashtabula County
  • Ohio: Euclid State Park in Cuyahoga County
  • Ohio: Villa Angela State Park in Cuyahoga County
  • Ohio: Edson Creek in Erie County
  • Wisconsin: South Shore Beach in Milwaukee County

National findings – 2012

America’s beaches issued a total of 20,120 closing and advisory days nationwide. This year’s report found that water quality at America’s beaches remains largely unchanged, with 7 percent of beachwater samples nationwide violating public health standards in 2012, compared to 8 percent in 2011 and 2010 and 7 percent each year from 2006-2009.

For more information

Copyright 2013, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist

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