August 13, 2007
The nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) last week announced its annual list of America's best and worst beaches from an environmental and health safety perspective. Much to the group's chagrin, pollution at the nation's 3,500 ocean, lake and bay beaches resulted in 25,000 closing or swimming advisory days in 2006-a record number that represents a 28 percent increase from just the previous year.
According to NRDC, storm water runoff was the primary culprit in about 10,000 of the closings and advisories, while sewage spills and overflows accounted for another 1,300 cases. Fecal contamination from unknown so-called "non-point" sources accounted for the remaining problem days.
This year's 17th annual version of the report, "Testing the Waters," took an especially close look at the nation's highest risk beaches--those that are either very popular, very close to pollution sources, or both. Every state with ocean beaches experienced beach pollution problems, with 92 beaches in 19 states qualifying as "high risk." High risk means the water was detected as unsafe in more than a quarter of the samples taken. Beaches in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Rhode Island, and Minnesota fared worst based on peer-reviewed analysis of experts...