beach bummer

Just How Filthy Is Your Favorite Beach?

Photo: Kena Betancur/Getty Images

Being a lover of ocean shores, it is not in my nature to fear the beach, but society has devised a long list of concerns, many of them reasonable: jellyfish, sharks, bad burns, the tyranny of people who bring their speakers. Now we might add feces to that list.

The Guardian reported on Wednesday that a new study from the Environment America Research and Policy Center (EARPC) has discovered that more than half the beaches in the United States have had potentially unsafe levels of fecal bacteria at some point in 2018.

Researchers analyzed data from the National Water Quality Monitoring Council pertaining to 2,620 beaches, spanning 29 states and Puerto Rico, and found that 58 percent of the total contained amounts of fecal bacteria that surpassed the Environmental Protection Agency’s “beach action value” threshold, used to determine whether to issue a notification, on at least one day in the last year. A worrisome 605 of the sites were found potentially dangerous on more than a quarter of the days when the water was tested.

The worst two beaches in terms of having a lot of potentially infectious fecal matter were found to be — in first place — Singing Bridge Beach of Arenec county, Michigan, and — in second — San Pedro Creek of San Mateo county, whose water was deemed potentially unsafe on 91 percent of days sampled. Of the states whose beaches were tested, New Hampshire, Maine, and Hawaii made out best, while Illinois, Mississippi, and Louisiana didn’t do so hot.

The report also contains recommendations for ways the government might spring into action, which, according to The Guardian, include “increased funding for sewage systems, protection and restoration of natural infrastructure such as wetlands and strengthened enforcement of municipal wastewater treatment.”

Evil beach poop! Sounds gross, obviously, but can it really hurt you? John Rumpler, a co-author of the report, told The Guardian that fecal contamination can cause respiratory disease, eye and ear infections, gastrointestinal illness, and skin rashes. Contamination is promoted through overflowing sewages and run-off, which are further exasperated by big storms incited by climate change

In conclusion, Rumpler says, “the basic findings of the report are that there’s far too much fecal bacteria in places where we swim all across the US.” As an inexpert blogger equipped with neither snorkel nor the will to resist the water on a hot beach day, I must agree.

Just How Filthy Is Your Favorite Beach?