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.
"By making our communities literally greener on land - we can make the water at the beach cleaner. In the years to come, there's no reason we can't reverse this dirty legacy."
NRDC cited heavy Hawaiian rainfall, unidentified contamination sources in California and oil wash-up in the Gulf of Mexico almost a year after British Petroleum's massive spill, as the main causes for the increase.
The presence of human or animal waste made up 70 percent of the closing and advisory days usually caused from storm water run-off.
The report also listed the top 10 repeat offender beaches that have had persistent contamination problems since 2006. Three of them -- Illinois' North Point Marina North Beach and Wisconsin's Eichelman Beach and South Shore Beach -- are part of the Great Lakes region, an area with the most frequently contaminated beach water in 2010, with 15 percent of water samples exceeding public health standards.
Louisiana, hit hardest by the oil spill, is the state with the country's highest rate of contamination at 31 percent followed by Ohio and Indiana at 21 and 16 percent respectively.
Louisiana claims just under a third of the 9,474 total national oil related advisories and closures. As of June, four beach segments in Louisiana that had closed due to oil have yet to open.
California had three beaches on the offenders list with Avalon Beach, Cabrillo Beach Station and Doheny State Beach, while Florida's Keaton Beach, New Jersey's Beachwood Beach West, Texas' Ropes Park and Ohio's Villa Angela State Park also the list.
The cleanest region for beaches was in the South East, followed by New York-New Jersey Coast and the Delmarva region of Virginia, Maryland Delaware.
New Hampshire was the state with the lowest percentage of contamination.