Beach time? Make sure the water won’t make you sick

| July 2, 2014 | 0 Comments

It’s summer, and for millions of Americans, that means beach parties and swimming. In fact, we make almost 2 billion trips to the beach every year! You might think natural bodies of water are safe from waterborne illnesses. But while the water at your local beach may look inviting, there’s a 1 in 10 chance it could be contaminated with polluted water that can make swimmers sick, according to the latest report from the National Resources Defense Council. Illnesses that can be spread by contact with polluted beach water include stomach flu, skin rashes, pinkeye, respiratory infections, meningitis and hepatitis, according to the report. Children are more vulnerable because they tend to swallow more water when swimming.

pristine beach

Not all beaches are quite this pristine. The NRDC has just released an interactive map on American beaches’ water quality. From stockphotosforfree.com.

Every year, the NRDC collects water samples from nearly 3,500 American beaches and evaluates it using the Environmental Protection Agency’s new water safety standard, “Beach Action Value. ” The BAV is meant to protect swimmers from pollution — the majority of which is caused by sewage overflow and contaminated storm water runoff.

“Every year, more than 10 trillion gallons of untreated stormwater, including hundreds of billions of gallons of untreated sewage overflows, make their way into America’s waterways, according to the EPA. Contaminated runoff has historically been the largest known source of beach water pollution,” The report says.

This year’s report shows that about 1 in 10 beaches are so polluted they’re not safe for swimmers. The Great Lakes takes the dubious prize for the most polluted beaches, followed by the Gulf Coast and New England. Beaches in New York, Indiana and Ohio are on what the report calls a repeat offenders list. The NRDC offers a handy interactive map you can plug your location into to find out how safe your area’s beaches are.

The report isn’t all bad news. It also calls out 35 “superstars” — popular beaches across 14 states such as California’s Newport Beach and New Jersey’s Broadway Beach. Other experts, such as Dr. Beach, also call out the best beaches in the nation, showing there’s plenty of great beaches left to choose from.

Still, the NRDC says without the Clean Water Protection Act, all beaches are at risk. It also offers up a simple info graphic showing how “green infrastructure” can help combat the problem.

“The best way to keep this pollution out of America’s beach water is to prevent it from the start – by investing in smarter, greener infrastructure on land, like porous pavement, green roofs, parks, roadside plantings and rain barrels,” NRDC says. “Green infrastructure addresses stormwater pollution by stopping rain where it falls, enabling it to evaporate or filter into the ground naturally instead of carrying runoff from dirty streets to our beaches.”

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Category: Natural water, Safety

About the Author

Gary Thill is the former editor of Aquatics International, an award-winning magazine for the commercial pool and waterpark markets. He is a nationally recognized writer and editor with an extensive communications background that includes print, online and social media.

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