July 28, 2005

U.S. beaches getting dirtier, report finds

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More and more U.S. beaches are being
closed due to contamination, in part because there is more
pollution and in part because of better monitoring, the
National Resources Defense Council said on Thursday.

The group's annual clean beaches report finds that beaches
were closed or the subject of a health advisory on nearly
20,000 days in 2004, up 9 percent from 2003 and the most days
since tracking started 15 years ago.

"Instead of closing our beaches, let's clean up the water,"
said Nancy Stoner, director of NRDC's Clean Water Project.

"Authorities have gotten better at finding the problems.
Now they need to stop the pollution at its source by repairing
and replacing leaky sewage and septic systems, and cleaning up
contaminated runoff."

Texas, Washington and Maryland had the biggest increase in
the number of closing and advisory days, the NRDC found.

The report, available on the Internet at
http://www.nrdc.org/water/oceans/ttw/titinx.asp, found that 85
percent of the closing and advisory days were caused by
dangerously high levels of bacteria found in human or animal

Sewage and storm runoffs are usually to blame.

"We need stronger enforcement for those who aren't doing
their share, and we need more federal help for local
communities to control runoff and update their aging sewage
systems," Stoner said.

Otherwise, beach-related business could lose out, she said.
The study cited a report that estimated that closing a Lake
Michigan beach could cause losses of as much as $37,000 a day.

Authorities doing more to keep beaches clean include the
city of Los Angeles, Scarborough State Beach in Rhode Island
and Door County, Wisconsin, northeast of Green Bay, the NRDC

Communities that do not monitor or control pollution or
warn the public when beach water is unsafe include Los Angeles
County, the city of Beverly Hills, Van Buren County, Michigan
and Atlantic Beach, North Carolina .

The NRDC said Congress should fully fund the 2000 Beaches
Environmental Assessment, Closure and Health (BEACH) Act, which
requires all coastal and Great Lakes states to adopt the
Environmental Protection Agency's bacterial standards, provides
grants for monitoring and notification programs, and requires
the EPA to make beach water quality data easily accessible.

"Just this week, Congress cut the Clean Water State
Revolving Fund, the main federal support for water
infrastructure. We're going backward," Stoner said.

The NRDC urged the EPA to tighten controls on sewer
overflows and stormwater discharges, ensure that states and
localities monitor water quality and notify the public when it
does not meet bacterial standards.

Another report published on Thursday found that many
beaches are disappearing.

"More than 75 percent of Florida's shoreline, 47 percent of
New York's shoreline, and 26 percent of New Jersey's and
Virginia's shorelines are identified as critically eroding,"
the group, Surfrider.org, said in its report.

Just last week, Richard Whitman of the U.S. Geological
Survey's Lake Michigan Ecological Research Station and
colleagues reported that sand can carry more bacteria than
water at beaches. Whitman did one study in 2003 that found
bacteria levels in sand on Chicago's lakefront averaged 10
times that of the water.