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
- Puerto Rico