Swimming in Sewage? Find Out if Your Favorite Beach Has Been Flagged for Chronic Pollution

Thanks to the growing effects of climate change, beautiful beaches around the world are quickly becoming endangered species. But rising sea levels and ocean acidification aren’t the only threats to our favorite swimming spots.

Once again, the good ‘ole human race has topped the list of things attacking the ocean ecosystem. Although we love to visit the beach, it seems we couldn’t care less about protecting them for future generations.

A recent report from the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) found that 10 percent of all water quality samples collected last year from nearly 3,500 coastal and Great Lakes beaches in the U.S. contained bacteria levels that failed to meet EPA standards for swimmer safety.

This is the 24th annual “Testing the Waters” beach report published by the NRDC. It confirmed that despite two decades of calling for stricter protections against pollution, poor water quality persists at many U.S. seashores, with massive stormwater runoff and sewage overflows historically being the largest known sources of the problem.

“Sewage and contaminated runoff in the water should never ruin a family beach trip,” said NRDC senior attorney Jon Devine in a statement. “But no matter where you live, urban slobber and other pollution can seriously compromise the water quality at your favorite beach and make your family sick. The EPA estimates that up to 3.5 million people become ill from contact with raw sewage from sanitary overflows each year.

In the 2014 report, 17 U.S. beaches in eight states were flagged as repeat offenders because of chronic water pollution problems. Each not only had more than 25 percent of samples exceed the BAV in 2013, but also had more than 25 percent of samples exceed the national standard then in effect each year from 2009 to 2012. They are:

  • California: Malibu Pier, 50 yards east of the pier, in Los Angeles County
  • Indiana: Jeorse Park Beach in Lake County (both monitored sections):
    • Lake Jeorse Park Beach I
    • Lake Jeorse Park Beach II
  • 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
  • New York: Wright Park – East in Chautauqua County
  • New York: Ontario Beach in Monroe County
  • Ohio: Lakeshore Park in Ashtabula County
  • Ohio: Arcadia Beach in Cuyahoga County
  • Ohio: Euclid State Park in Cuyahoga County
  • Ohio: Noble Beach in Cuyahoga County
  • Ohio: Sims Beach in Cuyahoga County
  • Ohio: Villa Angela State Park in Cuyahoga County
  • Ohio: Edson Creek in Erie County
  • Wisconsin: South Shore Beach in Milwaukee County

The good news is that many more beaches passed the EPA’s tests with flying colors. NRDC designated these 35 popular beaches across 14 states as “superstars” for consistently meeting water quality safety thresholds. Each beach on this list met national water quality benchmarks 98 percent of the time over the past five years. They are:

  • Alabama: Gulf Shores Public Beach in Baldwin County
  • Alabama: Gulf State Park Pavilion in Baldwin County
  • Alabama: Dauphin Island Public Beach
  • California: Newport Beach in Orange County (1 of 3 monitored sections)
    • Newport Beach – 38th Street
  • Delaware: Dewey Beach-Swedes in Sussex County
  • Florida: Bowman’s Beach in Lee County
  • Florida: Coquina Beach South in Manatee County
  • Florida: Fort Desoto North Beach in Pinellas County
  • Georgia: Tybee Island North in Chatham County
  • Hawaii: Hapuna Beach St. Rec. Area in Big Island
  • Hawaii: Po’ipu Beach Park in Kauai
  • Hawaii: Wailea Beach Park in Maui
  • Massachusetts: Singing Beach in Essex County
  • Maryland: Point Lookout State Park in St Mary’s County
  • Maryland: Assateague State Park in Worcester County
  • North Carolina: Ocean Pier at Main St. and Sunset Blvd. in Brunswick County
  • North Carolina: Beach at Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in Dare County
  • North Carolina: Ocean Pier at Salisbury Street in Wrightsville Beach in New Hanover
  • North Carolina: Ocean Pier at Ocean Blvd. and Crews Ave. in Topsail Beach in Pender County
  • New Hampshire: Hampton Beach State Park in Rockingham County
  • New Hampshire: Wallis Sands Beach at Wallis Rd. in Rockingham County
  • New Hampshire: Wallis Sands State Park in Rockingham County
  • New Jersey: Washington (Margate) in Atlantic County
  • New Jersey: 40th St. (Avalon) in Cape May County
  • New Jersey: 40th St. (Sea Isle City) in Cape May County
  • New Jersey: Stone Harbor at 96th St. in Cape May County
  • New Jersey: Upper Township at Webster Rd. in Cape May County
  • New Jersey: Wildwood Crest at Orchid in Cape May County
  • New Jersey: Broadway (Pt. Pleasant Beach) in Ocean County
  • New York: Long Beach City in Nassau County
  • Virginia: Virginia Beach at 28th St. in Virginia Beach County
  • Virginia: Virginia Beach at 45th St in Virginia Beach County
  • Virginia: Back Bay Beach in Virginia Beach County
  • Virginia: Virginia Beach – Little Island Beach North in Virginia Beach County
  • Washington: Westhaven State Park, South Jetty in Grays Harbor

According to the NRDC, the fastest and most efficient way to address water pollution at the nation’s beaches is to finalize and adopt the Clean Water Protection Rule proposed by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers.

“Right now, the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are accepting public input on their Clean Water Protection Rule, an initiative that would restore pollution control safeguards to a host of streams, wetlands and other waters that are not clearly protected today. This will help protect our beaches from pollution, because these waters filter pollution and absorb stormwater.”

Read the full report and use the NRDC’s zip code searchable map at www.nrdc.org/beaches You can also take action to protect our rivers, lakes and beaches by signing the petition below.


Julie D.
Julie D3 years ago

In San Diego our beaches are often closed to swimmers due to being contaminated. And then what about the sea life in these contaminated waters?

Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla3 years ago

Such a shame ;(

ERIKA S3 years ago

these places.....just a dream for me

Chloe M.
Chloe M3 years ago

Galveston, Texas on neither of the lists. Didn't expect it be clean, but surprised it's not dirty, either.

Carole R.
Carole R3 years ago

Good to know. Thanks.

Brian Foster
Brian F3 years ago

Controlling human overpopulation, and the use of compost toilettes is the only solution. Compost toilettes separate human waste, and allow waste to safely decompose over time naturally into our environment. Replacing our ineffective sewage system that leaks into our oceans and lakes, with composting toilettes would prevent sewage from entering our oceans and lakes.

Rosemary Diehl
Rosemary Diehl3 years ago

Didn't see Palm Beach on the list either way so I am assuming the best!

Fred L.
Fred L3 years ago

Just today in Honolulu, the Health Department advised people to stay out the water at Kewalo Basin due to a sewage spill. The area near Kewalo Basin is slated for massive condominium development, with virtually no upgrading of the sewer system. Expect more such beach closures in the near future.

Barbara L.
Past Member 3 years ago

Probably the only reason isn't on the polluted list because Texas doesn't believe in the EPA or having inspections ....