WASHINGTON – The nation’s recreational beaches are getting dirtier and more dangerous, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The environmental advocacy organization’s annual report found 20,000 beach closings and health advisories across the nation last year due to beach water contamination, a 9 percent increase from 2003 and the largest number of closings and advisories since the group began tracking the problem 15 years ago.
The increase is partly due to more widespread monitoring and reporting of water contaminants. But it also shows there’s a lot of pollution endangering swimmers, according to the report’s authors.
“Overall, the trends are negative,” said Nancy Stoner, director of the NRDC’s Clean Water Project.
The annual report covers beach closings and health advisories issued in 29 states covering both oceans, the Gulf of Mexico, the Great Lakes, bays and estuaries.
Approximately 85 percent of the closings and advisories were triggered when monitoring detected bacteria levels exceeding federal, state or local quality standards.
Sewage spills or discharges of rain-driven storm water were most frequently cited as the cause of elevated harmful bacteria in recreational waters.
States with the biggest jump in beach water problems were: Texas, Washington, Maryland, Minnesota, Michigan, New York and Illinois.
The report identified three beaches where local officials adopted new policies to trap water pollutants and protect swimmers. One is located in Los Angeles, another is in Door County, Wis., and the third is Scarborough State Beach in Rhode Island.
At the same time, the report identified 44 cities in Los Angeles County, Calif., that it says wasted “millions of taxpayer dollars” challenging a regional storm water cleanup plan.
Also singled out for not doing enough to either monitor water quality or reduce pollution were Van Buren County, Mich., and Atlantic Beach, N.C.