Report Ranks Beach 'Bums'

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) says you might want to consider where your favorite beach ranks on its latest survey of the conditions at nation's beaches.

The NRDC's annual report, Testing the Waters: Has Your Vacation Beach Cleaned Up Its Act?, lists the beaches that have the most comprehensive beach pollution monitoring systems, as well as the states that qualify for its list of "Beach Bums" for lax monitoring and notification procedures.

In 1997, there were more than 4,150 beach closings and advisories, and the NRDC says the issue of safety for the beach-going public should be of great importance to everyone.

According to the report, 69 percent of last year's beach closings and advisories were the result of bacteria levels that exceeded beach water quality standards. Increased bacterial levels are frequently due to sewage or storm water runoff. Sarah Chasis, senior attorney for the NRDC, says beach-goers deserve more information.

"We owe it to beach-goers to make sure they understand the risks they face when they go swimming in the water," says Chasis. "The second goal is clean beaches. That is the most important goal. We should all be able to go swimming at all beaches all the time safely."

Gastroenteritis, dysentery, hepatitis, ear infections, and upper respiratory infections are some of the diseases that can result from contact with water containing high levels of bacteria. At highest risk from these swimming related illnesses are children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems.

The beaches NRDC commends for their testing and reporting programs are:

  • Half Moon Bay, California
  • Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
  • Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Indiana
  • Wellfleet, Massachusetts
  • Cape May, New Jersey
  • Cape Hatteras, North Carolina
  • Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
The states or territories falling into the NRDC's "Beach Bums" category for failing to regularly monitor and notify the public of pollution problems at their beaches are:
  • Alabama
  • Georgia
  • Louisiana
  • Oregon
  • Puerto Rico
  • Texas
  • Washington
Jessica Landman, another senior attorney for the NRDC, says there's a bad trend at work. "Most people in this country think water quality is getting better and not worse right now," says Landman. "The most recent report indicates that we may be moving back and not forward in water quality overall and beach water quality. This is a very disturbing trend that we need to reverse."