Cleanest, Most Polluted Beaches Revealed
June 28, 2012

Cleanest, Most Polluted Beaches Revealed

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Even though the number of contamination-related closing and advisory days at beaches in the United States decreased 3% from last year, pollution levels at these summer getaway spots were still at their third highest level over the past 22 years, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) claims in a new report.

The "Testing the Waters" study, which was released on Wednesday, analyzed data from 3,000 beaches nationwide and discovered that 8% of water samples violated public health standards last year, the same amount as in 2010, Laura Bly of USA Today explained.

However, the number of closings and advisory in 2011 was 23,481, the third-highest level (behind 2006 and 2010) since the NRDC began monitoring water quality at American beaches, she added.

"The Great Lakes region had the highest violation rate of beachwater standards - 11% of samples in 2011 - while the Mid-Atlantic's Delmarva region had the lowest, with 4%," Bly wrote. "Individual states with the highest violation rates of reported samples were Louisiana (29%), Ohio (22%), and Illinois (12%)."

"The states with the cleanest beaches in 2011 were Delaware, New Hampshire, North Carolina, New Jersey and Florida," added Tony Barboza of the Los Angeles Times. "California, which accounted for 25% of the nation's beach closures and advisories, ranked 21st out of the 30 states in the number of beach water tests that flunked federal health standards."

The primary source of the contamination was runoff reaching the ocean due to rainfall or irrigation, which accounted for approximately 47% of beach pollution in 2011, Barboza said. He added that the NRDC report urges the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to strengthen beach water quality guidelines that are expected to go into effect this fall, replacing standards originally passed back in 1986.

"Twelve beaches received a 5-star rating, indicating strong testing and safety practices, as well as low violation rates. California is home to three of them; the rest are found in Alabama, Delaware, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Texas,"'s Vignesh Ramachandran said.

Those five-star beaches are: Gulf Shores Public Beach and Gulf State Park Pavilion in Alabama; Newport, Huntington State and Bolsa Chica in California; Dewey Beach in Delaware; Ocean Beach in Maryland; Park Point Franklin Park and Lafayette Community Club Beach in Minnesota; Hampton Beach State Park and Wallis Sands in New Hampshire; and South Padre Island in Texas.

Conversely, beaches flagged as "repeat offenders" due to longstanding pollution issues over the years include: Avalon and Doheny State Beach in California; Winnetka Elder Park Beach, North Point Marina and North Beach in Illinois; Constance, Gulf Breeze, Little Florida, Long and Rutherford in Louisiana; Beachwood Beach West in New Jersey; Woodlawn and Ontario in New York; Euclid State Park and Villa Angela State Park in Ohio; and Wisconsin's South Shore Beach in Wisconsin.

The authors of the report advise those planning to visit beaches to avoid those close to urban areas, open waters or storm water runoff drains, as well as opting not to swim in water that is cloudy or smells funny, making sure not to submerge their heads, and waiting at least one day after a heavy rain to go for a swim, Ramachandran added.

According to the NRDC report, EPA estimates claim that as many as 3.5 million people fall ill each year after coming in contact with raw sewage from sanitary sewer overflows every year.

Among the illnesses associated with such pollution are stomach flu, pinkeye, respiratory infections, meningitis, and hepatitis, they said, adding that children are particularly vulnerable to such ailments because they are more likely to submerge their heads or swallow water while swimming.