PennEnvironment reports that there were more than 18,000 closing and advisory days at ocean, bay and Great Lakes beaches across the nation in 2009. However, the report brought good news for Pennsylvania and New Jersey beaches.
With 34 beach closing days in 2009, Lake Erie saw a 24% decrease from the 45 closings in 2008. However, in 2007 there were only 6 closing days, and 53 in 2006.
New Jersey beaches had 180 closing and advisory days in 2009—a 13% decrease from 2008 where it had 208.
PennEnvironment’s Clean Water Advocate Erika Staaf says these numbers tend to fluctuate depending on the amount of rain each year. She says rain brings more pollutants into waterways, and the most effective way to prevent this is to reduce the amount of storm water making its way into rivers, lakes and oceans. She says it seems Pennsylvania and New Jersey have kept a close watch on storm water, and the decreases in closing and advisory days are to show for it.
Nationally, the report found that 7% of beachwater samples violated health standards, indicating the presence of human or animal waste and showing no improvement from 2008. Pennsylvania is ranked 21st in the nation for its beachwater quality.
Staaf says beachwater pollution puts swimmers at risk of waterborne illnesses such as stomach flu, skin rashes, pinkeye, ear, nose and throat infections, dysentery, hepatitis, respiratory ailments, neurological disorders and other serious health problems. For some people, the results can be fatal.
In order to prevent beachwater pollution, Staaf says we need to increase recources for cities in towns to upgrade their sewage treatment systems, and prevent catastrophic incidents like oil spills. For people at home, she says they can install rain barrels to collect rain water and reuse it in gardens, and use planter boxes to add to the amount of space that can soak up rainwater.
For the full report, click here.