Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Planning to Go for a Dip in Ocean? Think Again, Says Pollution Study

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Planning to Go for a Dip in Ocean? Think Again, Says Pollution Study

Article excerpt

AT the height of the summer season, just when an ocean dip is most alluring, an environmental group last week released the first-ever national tally of coastal beach closings. It's enough to give pause to would-be bathers.

More than 2,000 closures of United States beaches were recorded in 1991, primarily due to raw human sewage polluting coastal waters, according to data collected by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a national environmental advocacy group.

"Beaches that were not closed may be just as polluted {as those closed}," says Sarah Chasis, the NRDC attorney in charge of the report.

The number of closures would probably be higher, she says, because the lack of consistent, frequent water-testing means that beaches may reach pollution levels of high health risk without being discovered.

Even when it is discovered that water quality standards are violated, there are no federal requirements that the public be notified, Ms. Chasis adds. Survey of states

The report, "Testing the Waters: A National Perspective on Beach Closings," found that:

* Ten states - Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, and Washington - monitor their beach waters infrequently, if ever.

* Only four states - Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Hawaii - monitor the entire length of their coastlines.

* Out of 2,008 beach closures in 1991, 715 occurred along the Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey shorelines and 588 were between Los Angeles and San Diego.

* Only Connecticut, New Jersey, and Delaware consistently close beaches or post advisories every time water-quality standards are violated.

"The large number of states that do not test or close beaches tells us we need national mandates requiring states to do so, to guarantee that Americans are not left to swim at their own risk," says Ms. Chasis.

Those standards, she says, should include nationwide water quality standards, a monitoring system consistent in type frequency, and mandatory public notification when water quality standards are violated.

The NRDC's study stems from the intense interest in beach contamination that started in the summer of 1988, when medical wastes began floating ashore on East Coast and Gulf state beaches. …

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