Sewage and contaminated storm water can cause illness in swimmers.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The number of days that beaches closed or posted warnings because of pollution rose sharply in 2003 because of more rainfall, increased monitoring and tougher standards, an environmental group says.
There were 18,284 days of beach closures and advisories nationwide in 2003, an increase of 51 percent -- or 6,206 days -- from 2002, according to the 14th annual beach report by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
"We're doing better monitoring for beach water pollution, but we're also finding more beach water pollution," said Nancy Stoner, director of NRDC's Clean Water Project. "People have more information. They're less likely to be swimming in dangerous waters. But now we can't ignore this problem as we have in the past. We know that it's a very significant problem."
Where is it from?
Most beach water pollution comes from sewage and contaminated storm water. High bacteria levels from human or animal waste prompted 88 percent of the closing and advisory days in 2003. Swimming in such polluted water can cause gastroenteritis and other problems.
The report tallied data from state and local officials and the Environmental Protection Agency. It said that the number of beach closures and advisory days was higher in 2003 than in any year since NRDC began its annual reports. In the mid-90s the report typically found some 2,500 closures per year.
Some local officials surpass others in monitoring beach water pollution and notifying the public, the report said. It cited four beaches as doing a good job: Newport Beach, Calif.; Willard Beach in South Portland, Maine; Ocean City, Md.; and Warren Town Beach, R.I. The report also criticized four beach areas that it said do not regularly monitor water quality or post notices: Bar Harbor, Maine; Kennebunkport, Maine; St. Lawrence County, N.Y.; and Frenchman's Bar in Vancouver, Wash.
Florida accounted for more than one-third of the increase in closure and advisory days, the report said. That's partly because the state increased its monitoring frequency and adopted EPA health standards for the first full year. Other states with large increases in closing and advisory days: Delaware, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island and South Carolina.
The overall increase in monitoring in 2003 was partly because of more federal funding triggered by the 2000 Beaches Environmental Assessment, Closure and Health Act, NRDC said.
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