June 27th, 2012
10:00 AM ET
Just when you thought it was safe to go into the water, the Natural Resources Defense Council has released its annual beach quality report and it’s not pretty.
According to NRDC, a large number of U.S. seashores continue to suffer from storm water runoff and sewage pollution that can cause swimmers to become very ill.
The report, Testing the Waters: A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches, looks at 2011 data collected from test results taken at more than 3,000 beaches nationwide. It examines the pollution factors that affect these U.S. vacation spots and calls for public efforts to clean up.
The report found that last year the nation’s beach waters continued to be affected by serious contamination and pollutants from human and animal waste. As a result, America’s beaches had the third-highest number of closings or advisories in the report’s history, with the second-highest number occurring just the year before. Progress, according to the report, is not being made.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that more than 10 trillion gallons of untreated storm water makes its way into surface waters each year, and hundreds of billions of gallons of wastewater - which includes sewage and storm water - are released in combined sewer overflows. This water dumps into many of America’s coastal areas.
But the NRDC report is not all bleak. It includes a guide that rates the water quality and practices for testing water and administering public notifications at each beach. When a seashore exceeds the NRDC’s expectations, it receives a 5-star rating.
Beaches that rated five stars with last year’s data are:
- California: Newport Beach in Orange County (2 of 3 monitored sections)
The report also noted the top 15 “Repeat Offenders” - beaches that continually have high bacteria counts. These beaches over the last five years have had persistent contamination problems, with water samples violating public health standards more than 25% of the time for each year from 2007 to 2011.
Those beaches are:
- California: Avalon Beach in Los Angeles County (3 of 5 monitored sections):
If your favorite beach is not on either of these lists, you can go to the NRDC’s website for more information. For the first time this year, the NRDC’s report includes a zip code searchable map of more than 3,000 beaches nationwide, making it easier than ever for users to check the water quality of their favorite sandy spot.
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