Contamination still a big problem for U.S. beaches

Wed Jun 29, 2011 3:55pm EDT
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By Paula Rogo

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Beaches in Delaware, Minnesota and New Hampshire were the cleanest in the U.S., according to a new report that also showed beach closing due to contamination in 2010 were the second highest in two decades.

The Natural Resources Defense Council's (NRDC), in its annual beach water quality report, awarded superstar status to Rehoboth Beach and Dewey Beach in Delaware, Park Point Lafayette Community Club Beach in Minnesota and Hampton Beach State Park in New Hampshire.

But the report, which analyzed data from government agencies on 2010 beach water testing results at more than 3,000 locations countrywide, revealed that bacterial contamination at many beaches across the nation still poses risks to swimmers' health.

"Going to the beach is a summer rite of passage but can also make you sick," NRDC Water Program Director David Beckman said.

Beach water pollution can cause waterborne illnesses such as stomach flu, pink eye, dysentery and other serious health problems.

The non-profit, dedicated to protecting public health and the environment, estimates that beaches were closed or under advisory for more than 24,000 days, a 29 percent increase from last year.

States regularly test the beach water for human and animal waste bacteria under the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act (BEACH), which results in closures whenever water contamination exceeds standards.

"America's beaches have long suffered from pollution -- the difference is now we know what to do about it," NRDC senior attorney Jon Devine said.   Continued...