The summer of 2007 was marked by a significantly high number of beach closures due to poor water quality and safety concerns, according to a new report. The Natural Resources Defense Council’s annual report finds that the number of days beaches were closed or under advisory last summer soared to 22,571 — the second highest level in 18 years. Of particular concern were beaches on the Great Lakes, where 15% of water samples taken didn’t meet health standards, largely due the discharge of raw sewage after a rainfall. Nancy Stoner, director of NRDC’s clean water project, observed:
The contamination problems in the Great Lakes are very significant. That’s more than twice the national average and the highest level of contamination of any coastal region in the continental U.S.
Also worrisome was a sharp increase of 33% in closures and advisories along the New York-New Jersey coastline, as well as a 38% jump in closures and advisories on the Gulf Coast. The report stressed that last season was the first full season Gulf Coast beaches had been reopened and monitored since 2005 hurricanes Katrina and Rita demolished the coast. On the other hand, New England beaches that saw a 69% spike in closures and advisory days in 2006 again fell 46% last summer.
However, whether from sewage or contaminated water flowing from streets to beaches after a storm, much of the nation’s shoreline was polluted enough for closures and warnings to be put into effect. According to the report, sewage spills more than tripled from 2006 to 2007, and dirty storm water was responsible for more than 10,000 warnings and closures. The report also highlighted that coastal development can erode coastlines and prevent pollutants from being filtered out before they enter the water.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention emphasizes to swimmers that it’s important not to swallow water in lakes, rivers and oceans and recommends avoiding swimming after rainfalls. The NRDC has called for more rapid testing that would allow people to make a determination within a matter of hours about whether beaches are safe. Assessing data from the Environmental Protection Agency, the NRDC found there were slightly fewer closures last summer than in 2006. The summer of 2006 saw a record high of 25,643 days when beaches were closed or under advisory during the summer season. The bottom line is simply that pollution at our nation’s beaches raise safety and health issues.
Source: ABC News
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