July 29, 2009

Dry conditions close beaches

A 10 percent decline in U.S. beach closing or advisory days was due to dry conditions, not ecological improvement, an environmental watchdog said Wednesday.

The 2008 decrease was also a result of reduced funding for water monitoring in some states, the National Resources Defense Council said.

The decline follows two years of record-high closing and advisory days and the primary pollution source, storm water runoff after heavy rains, continues to be a serious problem that has not been addressed, the group said.

When the rains return, so will pollution, forcing beaches to issue more closings and advisory days, Water Program Co-Director Nancy Stoner said.

The New York group said ocean, bay and Great Lakes beaches were closed or the subject of health advisories 20,341 days last year -- the fourth straight year the number topped 20,000.

Wetter conditions than usual increased closings and advisories in the Great Lakes, New England and the New York-New Jersey region.

By contrast, last year was relatively dry in California, Hawaii, from Delaware to the southeastern states and the Gulf of Mexico, so fewer pollutants than usual were flushed with storm water into the oceans, the group said.