The Natural Resources Defense Council released a report on Wednesday, June 25th, that highlighted the fact that more than one in 10 U.S. beaches has bacterial contamination levels greater than the safety standards promulgated by the Environmental Protection Agency. The study involved taking more than 3500 water samples at U.S. beaches over a one-year period.

U.S. beaches

Although the study found contaminated beaches in all regions of the country, it found that Great Lakes beaches had high bacteria levels the most often. According to the report, more than 13% of Great Lakes beach water samples failed to meet federal standards.

The federal Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) requires that local agencies test beach water for bacteria. In some cases, beaches may be closed or people advised not to swim when bacteria levels are too high.

Statements from NRDC and EPA

“There can be hidden dangers lurking in many of our waterways in the form of bacteria and viruses that can cause a great inventory of illnesses like dysentery, hepatitis, stomach flu, infections and rashes,” Steve Fleischli, water program director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said speaking to the media a press conference yesterday.

The EPA also commented that the findings of the NRDC study confirm that water pollution caused by storm-water runoff and sewage overflows persists at many U.S. beaches.

35 “Superstar” U.S. beaches

“Superstar” U.S. beaches were defined in the NRDC report as beaches that met or exceeded national water quality standards 98% of the time over the last five years. See a selected list of Superstar beaches below.

  • Delaware: Dewey Beach-Swedes in Sussex County
  • Florida: Bowman’s Beach in Lee County
  • Georgia: Tybee Island North in Chatham County
  • Massachusetts: Singing Beach in Essex County
  • New Jersey – 7 beaches in all:
    Stone Harbor at 96th St.,
    Avalon at 40th St.
    Sea Isle City at 40th St.
    Upper Township at Webster Rd.
    Wildwood Crest at Orchid in Cape May County
    Margate at Washington in Atlantic County
    Broadway (Pt. Pleasant Beach) in Ocean County

17 “repeat offender” beaches

The 17 “repeat offender” beaches that have multi-year, ongoing water pollution issues include:
  • California: Malibu Pier, 50 yards East of the pier, in Los Angeles County
  • Indiana: Jeorse Park Beach in Lake County
  • Massachusetts: Cockle Cove Creek in Barnstable County
  • Maine: Goodies Beach in Knox County
  • New Jersey: Beachwood Beach in Ocean County
  • New York: Main Street Beach in Chautauqua County