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Report: Dirtiest Beaches in the U.S.

Swimming in contaminated water can cause illness

Before taking the family to the beach this summer, take a look at the new report released Thursday revealing some of the nation’s most popular vacation spots as repeat offenders when it comes to pollution and human feces contamination – it may change some travel plans.

Pollution from sewage, serious contamination – including oil, human feces, animal waste, and storm water runoff – continue to plague America’s beaches, which saw multiple closing and advisory days, according to the report issued by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Several popular beaches in California, Florida, and Texas made the alarming list of the “dirtiest beaches for 2011.”

The list is an important one because swimming in contaminated beach waters can cause serious illnesses including vomiting, diarrhea, eye infections and a host of other health problems, according to the U.S. Department of Health.

Beach water pollution nationwide causes a range of waterborne illnesses in swimmers including stomach flu, skin rashes, pinkeye, ear, nose and throat problems, dysentery, hepatitis, respiratory ailments, neurological disorders and other serious health problems, the report said.

For senior citizens, small children and people with weak immune systems, the results can be fatal.

The NRDC said the number of infections has been steadily growing over the past several decades and as coastal populations grow health officials expect this upward trend to continue until the pollution sources are addressed.

“America’s beaches have long suffered from pollution – the difference is now we know what to do about it,” said NRDC senior attorney Jon Devine.

“By making our communities literally greener on land – we can make the water at the beach cleaner. In the years to come, there’s no reason we can’t reverse this dirty legacy.”

The listing of polluted beaches spiked to the second-highest level since the NRDC began compiling the annual report 21 years ago.

The increase in the number of polluted beaches is mainly because of heavy rainfall in Hawaii, contamination from unidentified sources in California, and oil washing up in the Gulf of Mexico from the BP disaster, according to an NRDC spokesperson.

“Clean beach water is not only good for public health, it supports healthy coastal economies that generate billions of dollars and support millions of American jobs,” said David Beckman, the director of the water program at NRDC.

“By taking steps to stop the biggest sources of pollution in the waves, we can help keep trips to beach carefree, and support our lucrative tourism industries nationwide.”

The NRDC report compares test results from previous years and found areas with the most frequently contaminated beach water in 2010 included the Great Lakes, where 15 percent of beach water samples exceeded public health standards.

The organization tracks how often beach managers test for water contamination and when it exceeds health standards or in some cases when a state suspects levels would exceed standards, such as after heavy rain. They notify the public through beach closures or advisories.

It is interesting to note that most Gulf oil spill related advisories, closures and notices were lifted by the end of the year. However, cleanup crews are still at work and the spill is still interfering with trips to some beaches as oil continues to wash ashore in Alabama, Louisiana, Florida and Mississippi.

As of June 15, 2011, four beaches in Louisiana remain closed due to oil and three beaches in Florida have remained under oil spill notices.

"The EPA estimates that more than 10 trillion gallons of untreated storm water make their way into surface waters each year, and there are 850 billion gallons of wastewater, which includes sewage and storm water, released in combined sewer overflows annually," the report said.

Here is the list of "The Top Repeat Offenders" Dirty Beaches in 2011:

1. California: Avalon Beach in Los Angeles County
2. Avalon Beach – Near Busy B Café
3. Avalon Beach – North of GP Pier
4. Avalon Beach – South of GP Pier
5. California: Cabrillo Beach Station in Los Angeles County
6. California: Doheny State Beach in Orange County
7. Doheny State Beach – North of San Juan Creek
8. Doheny State Beach – Surf Zone at Outfall
9. Florida: Keaton Beach in Taylor County
10. Illinois: North Point Marina North Beach in Lake County
11. New Jersey: Beachwood Beach West in Ocean County
12. Ohio: Villa Angela State Park in Cuyahoga County
13. Texas: Ropes Park in Nueces County
14. Wisconsin: Eichelman beach in Kenosha County
15. Wisconsin: South Shore Beach in Milwaukee

It is important to note that, due to their size, some of these beaches have multiple sections that are tested for water quality, and in some instances only certain sections of a beach qualified for the repeat offender list. Where possible, multi-segment beaches have been indicated on this list, along with the specific sections of those beaches identified as repeat offenders.

Full the full NRDC report:
The 5-star rating guide to 200 popular beaches:

Note from NRDC: The Gulf Oil Spill in beach water:

More than a year later, the impacts of the BP oil disaster – the worst in U.S. history – still linger in the Gulf of Mexico. Over the course of two months, approximately 170 million gallons of oil gushed into Gulf waters, washing up on approximately 1,000 miles of shoreline. As of the end of January, 83 miles of shoreline remained heavily or moderately oiled, while tar balls and weathered oil continue to wash ashore.

As a result, many beaches in the region have issued oil spill advisories, closures, and notices since the disaster began more than a year ago.

A state-by-state look at oil spill notices, advisories, and closures at Gulf Coast beaches from the beginning of the spill through June 15, 2011 can be found online:

The NRDC also released a list of "Superstar Beaches" and here they are:
(These beaches deserve special notice for not only receiving a 5-star rating this year, but for having perfect testing results for the past three years, indicating a history of very good water quality.)

1. Delaware: Rehoboth Beach-Rehoboth Avenue Beach, in Sussex County
2. Delaware: Dewey Beach, in Sussex County
3. Minnesota: Park Point Lafayette Community Club Beach, in St. Louis County
4. New Hampshire: Hampton Beach State Park in Rockingham County

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