Annual Beach Survey by NRDC Finds Large Increase in Beach Closings
From the NRDC's website:
NRDC's annual survey of water quality and public notification at U.S. beaches finds that the number of beach closings and advisories in 2010 reached 24,091 -- the second-highest level since NRDC began tracking these events 21 years ago, confirming that our nation's beaches continue to suffer from bacterial pollution that puts swimmers at risk.
"Testing the Waters" focuses primarily on bacteria-related beach water quality concerns. This year and last year, the report also highlighted closures, advisories, and notices issued at beaches impacted by last summer's BP oil disaster. From the beginning of the spill until June 15, 2011 there have been a total of 9,474 days of oil-related beach notices, advisories and closures at Gulf Coast beaches due to the spill.
Nearly three-quarters of the 2010 beach closings and advisories were issued because water quality monitoring revealed bacteria levels exceeding health and safety standards. Across the country, aging and poorly designed sewage treatment systems and contaminated stormwater are often to blame for beachwater pollution.
Promising developments could improve protection of public health at U.S. beaches. Most importantly, the Environmental Protection Agency has embarked upon a major overhaul of its Clean Water Act regulations that apply to urban and suburban runoff pollution. These changes have the potential to broadly ensure that impervious areas that generate runoff pollution will be designed in a way to retain a significant amount of stormwater on site.
In addition, as a result of legal pressure from NRDC, the Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to update its decades-old beachwater quality standards by 2012. The legal settlement requires EPA to:
Conduct new health studies and swimmer surveys.
Approve a water-testing method that will produce same-day results.
Protect beachgoers from a broader range of waterborne illnesses.
The illnesses associated with polluted beachwater include conditions such as skin rashes, pinkeye, respiratory infections, meningitis and hepatitis. By contrast, current standards focus on gastrointestinal illnesses such as the stomach flu. Current water quality tests also take 24 hours or more to produce results, so beaches are not closed or placed under advisory until after beachgoers have spent a day swimming in water that did not meet water quality standards. The EPA's changes represent much-needed progress toward promoting safer and healthier beaches along U.S. coastlines.