News

Beachgoers beware: The water may make you sick

Beachgoers beware: The water may make you sick

SICK SWIMMERS: Beach homes line the shoreline in the San Diego North County town of Del Mar, California. Photo: Reuters/Mike Blake

By Carey Gillam

(Reuters) – Every summer millions of American families head for beaches, but few stop to think of the possibility that the water they swim in may harbor enough bacteria to cause stomach flu and a host of other illnesses.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) found that 10 percent of water quality samples collected from nearly 3,500 coastal and Great Lakes beaches in 2013 contained levels of harmful bacteria that exceeded “safe to swim” thresholds recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The findings – published on Wednesday in the NRDC’s 24th annual report on beach water quality – confirm that serious water pollution persists at many U.S. beaches, largely the result of stormwater runoff and sewage overflows that carry human and animal waste into waters where people swim, surf and sail.

“Too many people get sick when they go in the water,” said Steve Fleischli, NRDC water program director. The findings are little changed over the last five years of testing, he said.

The EPA encourages the issuing of advisories for beaches and lakes where water quality exceeds what it calls a “Beach Action Value,” a threshold model for assessing water quality.

“It is not a federal mandate at this point. It should be. But EPA is moving in the right direction,” said Fleischli.

Illnesses associated with polluted beach water include stomach flu, skin rashes, pinkeye, respiratory infections, meningitis and hepatitis. Children are especially vulnerable, as they tend to submerge their heads more often than adults and are more likely to swallow water when swimming, the report said.

One analysis found that fecal contamination at Los Angeles and Orange County beaches causes between 627,800 and 1,479,200 excess gastrointestinal illnesses each year, the NRDC said.

The report lists both some “superstar” beaches, that have routinely met water quality standards over the last five years, and “repeat offenders,” which are beaches showing persistent contamination problems, according to the NRDC.

Among the superstars: Gulf Shores Public Beach in Alabama; Tybee Island North in Georgia; Back Bay Beach in Virginia; and Po’ipu Beach Park in Kauai, Hawaii.

The list of beaches with repeated contamination problems included seven in Ohio; three in New York; two in Indiana; and one each in California, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Wisconsin, the report said.

(Reporting By Carey Gillam and Steve Orlofsky)

Recent Headlines

in Sports

Kentucky rolls Mountaineers in the Midwest Regional

Fresh
Kentucky's Marcus Lee, right, blocks a shot by West Virginia's Jonathan Holton during the first half of a college basketball game in the NCAA men's tournament regional semifinals, Thursday, March 26, 2015, in Cleveland.

Top-seed Kentucky advances after defeating West Virginia 78-39 rout of West Virginia in the Midwest Regional.

in Entertainment

Kate Upton, Lea Michelle to play best pals in new comedy

Fresh
Kate Upton arrives at the 2015 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015, in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Kate Upton and Lea Michele have teamed up for a new William H. Macy comedy called "The Layover."

in National

New York buildings collapse in possible gas blast

Fresh
Firefighters battle a fire at the site of a residential apartment building collapse and fire in New York City's East Village neighborhood, March 26, 2015.

Four apartment buildings in New York City caught fire from an apparent gas explosion, causing 19 injuries.

in National

Oil price falls as Middle East supply fears ease

Fresh
A general view shows oil tanks at the Bashneft-Ufimsky refinery plant (Bashneft - UNPZ) outside Ufa, Bashkortostan, January 29, 2015.

Oil prices fell more than $1 a barrel on Friday as worries receded over the Saudi Arabia-led air strikes in Yemen.

in National

Germanwings co-pilot had serious depressive episode

Fresh
Andreas Lubitz runs the Airportrace half marathon in Hamburg in this September 13, 2009 file photo.

The German pilot believed to have deliberately crashed a plane in the French Alps suffered from depression, a German newspaper reported.