Washington News Bureau

Report shows half of U.S. beaches were potentially unsafe because of waste contamination

WASHINGTON DC — If you’re planning to go to the beach, you may want to think twice before diving into the water.

That’s because a new watchdog report shows many of our beaches are pretty dirty.

Roughly 55 percent of tested beaches reached potentially unsafe levels at least one day last year because of waste contamination, according to a new report from Environment America Research and Policy Center.

“Unfortunately, all too often there are pathogens in the water that can make us sick,” said John Rumpler, Environment America Research and Policy Center.

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Experts warn beaches may have also experienced high contamination on days when testing didn’t happen.

Contaminated water can be very harmful for swimmers. Researchers estimate there are about 57 million cases of waterborne illnesses every year.

“We’re talking about all kinds of gastrointestinal nasty stuff, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, but also ear infections, skin rashes,” said Rumpler.

So where is this pollution coming from? Experts say one major source is runoff from new developments. They say things like parking lots and bigger buildings can increase the flow of polluted stormwater into our waterways.


“All communities have a role to play in stepping up and protecting our water infrastructure and stopping these pathogens from polluting the places where we love to go swimming,” said Rumpler.

But experts say there are plenty of days when beaches are safe for swimming. Rumpler recommends checking for advisories and even keeping a close eye on the weather ahead of time.

“The 24 hours after heavy rain is the most likely time where we’re going to see sewage overflows and runoff pollution,” he said.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides the Environmental Protection Agency with support too. This includes more than $11 billion to improve wastewater systems nationwide.

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