Just how clean is that water, anyway?
As summer’s heat presses down on cities across America, thousands of people will escape to the refreshing breezes off our coasts. But before you lay out your towel and race for the waves, be sure to check if the water meets public health standards.
Every year, the National Resources Defense Council publishes a report on the water quality of 200 popular American beaches. This year, about 8% of the beach samples tested violated public health standards for recreational waters, which usually leads to local health officials issuing advisories or shutting the beach down entirely.
8% might not seem like much. But that 8% translates into about 23,481 days of beach closings. That’s the third-highest number of days closed since the NRDC started the report 22 years ago, which signifies a troubling trend—or lack thereof. Water quality at some of the nation’s most popular beaches just isn’t improving that quickly. The NRDC recommends incentivizing ways to reduce bacterial runoff, such as promoting green roofs and porous pavements in cities.
Even if we wanted to ignore the environmental impact of such polluted water, there are more pressing reasons as to why we need to take action quickly. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 3.5 million people become sick from sewage overflow per year, with illnesses ranging from pinkeye and skin rashes, to meningitis. That number is probably a gross underestimate, since many people who become sick don’t report the illness, or believe it to be from other causes. More troubling, children are much more likely to become ill because they’re more likely to swallow water.
To find out what this year’s most unsafe and safe beaches are, go here.