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 Local

Court Date Set to Determine State Retiree Healthcare Refunds

state_capitol_3

The state will refund money to about 75,000 state retirees who've been paying a portion of their pensions for health insurance.

in Local

Durbin: President Did Right Thing on Immigration

immigration

Durbin tells Illinois colleagues to take action, not complain

in Local

New Life For An Old River

sangamon river

Thousands drive over the Sangamon River every day but, very few give it any thought

in Local

Sangamon Co. Judge Declares Pension Overhaul Unconstitutional; State Will Appeal

FILE - in this Dec. 5, 2013 file photo, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn hands off a pen during the signing of the pension overhaul legislation bill in Chicago. A Sangamon County judge's ruling Friday Nov. 21, 2014 on the constitutionality of the landmark Illinois pension overhaul could determine whether the matter is ultimately decided by the state Supreme Court. Looking on from left are: state Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside; Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington; Senate GOP leader Sen. Christine Radogno; Rep. Darlene Senger, R-Naperville; Rep. Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs and House Speaker Michael Madigan. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)

Illinois has the worst-funded state pension systems in the U.S., with a roughly $100 billion shortfall.

in Local

Illinois Killer’s Extradition Pending with Missouri Governor

jail

A Missouri prosecutor says convicted Illinois killer Nicholas Sheley's extradition paperwork remains with Gov. Jay Nixon.