Do you avoid swimming pools and hot tubs, but dive willingly into the ocean when you’re spending the day at the beach? It may not be as clean at you think, and chances are, it’s just as dirty as that community swimming pool you’ve been avoiding. On average, 35 million people get sick from dirty beach water every year!
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, some 10 trillion gallons of untreated wastewater end up in public swimming areas every year. Where is all this waste coming from? According to a new report from the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), untreated sewage and spillage from wastewater treatment plants, along with oil, trash, and fertilizers from yards and farm fields, and numerous other unknown sources are responsible for raising levels of illness-causing bacteria in beach water to unsafe levels.
According to Rodale, the most common side effect of swimming dirty water is diarrhea, but dysentery, pinkeye, and a host of other illnesses are other possible symptoms.
Every year, NRDC rates 200 of the most popular U.S. beaches based on bacteria levels and local public agencies’ responses to excessive levels (states receiving federal funds to maintain their beaches must test bacteria levels). They say the most polluted beaches in the U.S. are in the Great Lakes region, where more than 70 percent of all combined sewers in the United States are lurking. Find out how safe your beach is in NRDC’s new searchable database of all 3,000 beaches the group analyzed.
This year’s list of five-star-rated beaches:
Alabama: Gulf Shores Public Beach
Alabama: Gulf State Park Pavilion
California: Bolsa Chica Beach
California: Huntington State Beach, Brookhurst Street
California: Newport Beach, 38th Street, 52nd/53rd Street
Delaware: Dewey Beach
Maryland: Ocean City at Beach 6
Minnesota: Park Point Franklin Park/13th Street South Beach
Minnesota: Park Point Lafayette Community Club Beach
New Hampshire: Hampton Beach State Park
New Hampshire: Wallis Sands Beach at Wallis Road
Texas: South Padre Island (Town of South Padre Island)
Be safe and smart on your beach vacations by following these recommendations NRDC:
• Clean up after yourself and your pets to prevent garbage and dog waste from getting into the water.
• If you’re a boater, dispose of your sewage properly onshore.
• Choose beaches that are next to open waters or away from urban areas. They typically pose less of a health risk than beaches in developed areas or in enclosed bays and harbors with little water circulation.
• Look for pipes along the beach that drain stormwater runoff from the streets, and don’t swim near them.
• Avoid swimming in beach water that is cloudy or smells bad.
• Avoid swimming for at least 24 hours after heavy rains, which can wash pollution into the water).