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It may seem innocuous to flush a Q-tip down the toilet, but those bits of plastic have been washing up on beaches and pose a threat to the birds, turtles and marine life that call those beaches home. The scourge of plastic "nurdles," as they are called, has pushed Scotland to implement a complete ban on the sale and manufacture of plastic-stemmed cotton swabs, as the BBC reported.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Stefanie Sekich-Quinn
The Surfrider Foundation released the 2017 State of the Beach Report Card, which evaluates U.S. states and territories on their policies to protect our nation's beaches from coastal erosion, haphazard development and sea level rise. The results reveal that 22 out of 30 states, and the territory of Puerto Rico, are performing at adequate to poor levels, with the lowest grades located in regions that are most heavily impacted by extreme weather events. Surfrider's report card clearly denotes that not only do the majority of states need to make improvements, but they also require continued support at the federal level for the Coastal Zone Management Act and funding for agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), to protect our coastlines for the future.
If one of your favorite summertime activities is a trip to the nearest beach (or a vacation to the shore), then you’ll want to read this.
How healthy is your beach? Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
In its 24th annual beach report released yesterday, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) designated 35 popular U.S. beaches across 14 states as “superstars.” Beaches were rated on how closely they met water quality safety benchmarks; the superstars met the standards 98 percent of the time during the past five years.
But before perusing the list of 35, think about this: why aren’t all U.S. beaches superstars?
The fact is that 10 percent of the water samples collected in 2013 from nearly 3,500 coastal and Great Lakes beaches contained levels of bacteria that failed to meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s most stringent benchmark for swimmer safety, as outlined in EPA’s newly created “Beach Action Value.”
“Sewage and contaminated runoff in the water should never ruin a family beach trip,” said NRDC senior attorney Jon Devine. “But no matter where you live, urban slobber and other pollution can seriously compromise the water quality at your favorite beach and make your family sick.”
The report card, Testing the Waters: A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches, confirms that serious water pollution continues to be a problem at many U.S. beaches. Sewage overflows and stormwater runoff persist as the biggest known sources of contamination. According to EPA, up to 3.5 million people get sick annually from contact with raw sewage from sanitary overflows. Exposure to contaminated beach water causes waterborne illnesses in swimmers such as stomach flu; dysentery; hepatitis; respiratory ailments; rashes; pinkeye; ear, nose and throat problems; and neurological disorders.
“This means two things,” said NRDC attorney Noah Garrison. “First, people need to make sure they know what’s in the water at the beaches they visit, and to choose their beach carefully.”
To help choose your beach, here are NRDC’s 35 superstar beaches:
Alabama: Gulf Shores Public Beach in Baldwin County
Alabama: Gulf State Park Pavilion in Baldwin County
Alabama: Dauphin Island Public Beach
California: Newport Beach in Orange County (1 of 3 monitored sections)
• Newport Beach—38th Street
Delaware: Dewey Beach-Swedes in Sussex County
Florida: Bowman’s Beach in Lee County
Florida: Coquina Beach South in Manatee County
Florida: Fort Desoto North Beach in Pinellas County
Georgia: Tybee Island North in Chatham County
Hawaii: Hapuna Beach St. Rec. Area in Big Island
Hawaii: Po’ipu Beach Park in Kauai
Hawaii: Wailea Beach Park in Maui
Massachusetts: Singing Beach in Essex County
Maryland: Point Lookout State Park in St Mary's County
Maryland: Assateague State Park in Worcester County
North Carolina: Ocean Pier at Main St. and Sunset Blvd. in Brunswick County
North Carolina: Beach at Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in Dare County
North Carolina: Ocean Pier at Salisbury Street in Wrightsville Beach in New Hanover
North Carolina: Ocean Pier at Ocean Blvd. and Crews Ave. in Topsail Beach in Pender County
New Hampshire: Hampton Beach State Park in Rockingham County
New Hampshire: Wallis Sands Beach at Wallis Rd. in Rockingham County
New Hampshire: Wallis Sands State Park in Rockingham County
New Jersey: Washington (Margate) in Atlantic County
New Jersey: 40th St. (Avalon) in Cape May County
New Jersey: 40th St. (Sea Isle City) in Cape May County
New Jersey: Stone Harbor at 96th St. in Cape May County
New Jersey: Upper Township at Webster Rd. in Cape May County
New Jersey: Wildwood Crest at Orchid in Cape May County
New Jersey: Broadway (Pt. Pleasant Beach) in Ocean County
New York: Long Beach City in Nassau County
Virginia: Virginia Beach at 28th St. in Virginia Beach County
Virginia: Virginia Beach at 45th St. in Virginia Beach County
Virginia: Back Bay Beach in Virginia Beach County
Virginia: Virginia Beach—Little Island Beach North in Virginia Beach County
Washington: Westhaven State Park, South Jetty in Grays Harbor
The report also includes a list of 17 repeat offenders, with the Great Lakes region having the highest failure rate for water quality samples, and Ohio rating worst among the states where water samples were drawn. Sections of these beaches have persistent contamination issues, and water quality samples failed to meet health standards more than 25 percent of the time over the past five years.
Here are the 17 repeat offenders:
California: Malibu Pier, 50 yards east of the pier, in Los Angeles County
Indiana: Jeorse Park Beach in Lake County (both monitored sections):
• Lake Jeorse Park Beach I
• Lake Jeorse Park Beach II
Massachusetts: Cockle Cove Creek in Barnstable County
Maine: Goodies Beach in Knox County
New Jersey: Beachwood Beach in Ocean County
New York: Main Street Beach in Chautauqua County
New York: Wright Park—East in Chautauqua County
New York: Ontario Beach in Monroe County
Ohio: Lakeshore Park in Ashtabula County
Ohio: Arcadia Beach in Cuyahoga County
Ohio: Euclid State Park in Cuyahoga County
Ohio: Noble Beach in Cuyahoga County
Ohio: Sims Beach in Cuyahoga County
Ohio: Villa Angela State Park in Cuyahoga County
Ohio: Edson Creek in Erie County
Wisconsin: South Shore Beach in Milwaukee County
How to eventually make all U.S. beaches superstars? NRDC offers evergreen solutions such as protecting streams and wetlands and boosting green infrastructure.
NRDC's infographic illustrates how natural solutions can keep beaches clean: