Beaches across the country are being polluted with tainted runoff and sewage at a stubbornly high rate, putting swimmers at risk of getting sick, according to a new report by an environmental group.
The Natural Resources Defense Council found the number of beach water samples that failed health tests dipped to 7 percent last year from 8 percent the year before, but said the drop is the result of less rainfall flushing contaminants to the shore, not an overall decline in pollution.
Delaware, New Hampshire and North Carolina had the cleanest beaches in 2012, according to the group’s annual Testing the Waters report. The states with the most polluted beaches were Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio.
The report analyzed bacterial test results and public advisories from more than 3,000 beaches in 30 coastal and Great Lakes states. A high bacteria count indicates the presence of pathogens that can give swimmers skin rashes, eye infections or stomach and respiratory illnesses.
The report called for stronger beach water quality standards. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last year approved a new set of beach water quality standards, but environmental groups say they are not stringent enough to protect public health.