NRDC Study Finds U.S. Beaches More Polluted Than Ever


In 2010, closures and pollution advisories at U.S. beaches soared to its second-highest level in 21 years, according to the results of an annual water quality survey conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

According to the report, Testing the Waters 2011 , which utilizes water quality and public notification data at coastal U.S. areas, beach closings and advisories were issued for 24,091 days in total, a 29 percent increase from 2009. More than two-thirds of those were issued because bacteria levels exceeded applicable standards.

But where is all this bacteria coming from?

The report states that beaches are often closed because monitoring services detect the presence of bacteria that indicate the presence of pathogens — microscopic organisms from human and animal wastes that pose a threat to human health. The key known contributors of these contaminants are stormwater runoff, untreated or partially treated discharges from sewage treatment systems, discharges from sanitary sewers and septic systems, and wildlife.

For the second year in a row, the report also highlights closures, advisories, and notices issued at beaches impacted by last summer’s BP oil disaster. From the beginning of the spill until June 15, 2011 there have been a total of 9,474 days of oil-related beach notices, advisories and closures at Gulf Coast beaches due to the spill

While most of the advisories, closures and notices that were issued last year due to the oil spill were lifted by the end of the year, cleanup crews are still at work, states the report. And the spill is still interfering with trips to the beach as oil continues to wash ashore at Gulf Coast beaches in Alabama, Louisiana, Florida and Mississippi.

As of June 15, 2011, four beach segments in Louisiana that have been closed since the spill have yet to open, and three beaches in Florida have remained under oil spill notice.

In 2011, NRDC rated 200 popular beaches based on the cleanliness of the water and their monitoring and public notification practices. How clean is your beach? Check the ratings here.

Since pesticide, agricultural and industrial waste, and municipal wastewater run-off are some of the biggest factors contributing to poor water quality in the U.S., the NRDC suggests that enhanced regulation to prevent this pollution is the best way to keep more beaches open.

The NRDC supports a bill that Congress has considered in prior years, called the Clean Coastal Environment and Public Health Act, which would reauthorize and increase the federal grants made available to states under the BEACH Act.

Specifically, the bill would allow funding to be used for identifying sources of beachwater contamination (and might even provide support for remedying pollution sources); it would require the EPA to approve rapid test methods for monitoring beachwater pollution and ensure that states will use them, and it would improve coordination between the public health officials who monitor beachwater and the environmental agencies that regulate the sources of beachwater pollution.

The NRDC says that EPA’s reform of its regulations will be a major opportunity to advance communities’ use of green infrastructure. In addition, leaders in Congress have introduced bills to promote green infrastructure, require stormwater retention by highway development projects and fund community infrastructure improvements.

People can also help prevent beach pollution by taking simple steps, such as picking up pet waste, maintaining septic systems, putting swim diapers with plastic covers on babies and keeping trash off the beach.

Related Reading:

Gulf of Mexico “Dead Zone” Larger Than Ever and Growing

Ocean Trash: Polluting Seas and Killing Sea Lions

Google Earth Video Shows Ocean Pollution Is A Global Problem


Image Credit: Flickr – wheany


W. C
W. C6 days ago

Thanks for the information.

William C
William C6 days ago

Thank you for caring.

Janine H.
Janine H6 years ago

This is a very sad story. Other animals and plants have to go only because "we" humans do not want to share the world with other life forms, these life forms "we" would not eat (vegetarian food is not a bad idea, or eating with conscience as the so called primitive cultures did and still do, if they still exist. No meat/fish every day). "We" destroy everything around us and "we" forget, that everything is important to survive, too.

As little child i thought that rain is when God and the angels cry - because "we" humans have forgotten that we need this "intelligence", someone who could help... if "we" hadn't turned away for many centuries ago...

"Only when the last tree has been cut down; Only when the last river has been poisoned; Only when the last fish has been caught; Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten." (Native American proverb)

"We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not yet learned the simple art of living together as brothers." (Martin Luther King)

Doug G.
Doug G6 years ago

Increasing environmental problems because people don't want to deal effectively with the problems. When are people going to get real?

Armand B.
Past Member 6 years ago

I like to comb the beach for sea glass, but mostly what I find (and remove) is garbage.

Ameer T.
Ameer T6 years ago

Dont discount the fact that the hundreds of swimmers in the water may not want to go to the toilet when they feel the need.

Grace Adams
Grace Adams6 years ago

I haven't been to the beach in years. I do like to eat fish. We need the ocean fit for edible fish. Phytoplankton have declined about 40% since 1950. I wonder if Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion bringing up cold (AND ALSO NUTRIENT RICH) water from the bottom to condense the low temperature low pressure steam in the partial vacuum boiling chamber would help the phytoplankton be fruitful and multiply more and thus help the fish be fruitful and multiply more.

Ruth R.
Ruth R6 years ago

It would be wonderful to have clean beaches, seas, bays, and oceans to swim in.

francalina des stans
stella bleu6 years ago

So sad. Makes you wonder what it's going to take for people to understand that they need to dispose of their rubbish ethically.
Stupid humans.

Vivianne Mosca-Clark

The beaches are the edge of the ocean.
The ocean it's self is dieing.
And the oil spill hasn't stopped spilling. It is still releasing oil into the gulf.
Until the people get big business to repair and put back clean areas, we will have unhealthy beaches.