Skift Take

Pollution advisories will be more common in 2013 with beaches still dealing with the impact of Hurricane Sandy, highlighted by the 9 of 459 beaches included in last year’s study that don’t plan to open this season.

Pollution or the threat of contamination prompted more than 1,800 beach closings or advisories along the Atlantic and Great Lakes coasts in New York and New Jersey last summer, according to the 23rd annual beach quality report released Wednesday by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The report analyzed government data on water testing at more than 3,000 beaches nationwide. It found there were 1,871 closing and advisory days between New York and New Jersey last year. The survey included 236 beaches in New York and 223 in New Jersey that were monitored.

The environmental group posted the report on its website along with a searchable map and guides for consumers to find clean beaches for their summer vacations.

The most common cause of contamination was storm water runoff, with sewage overflows also a factor. Nearly 70 percent of the closings and advisories reflected a threat of potential pollution from heavy rain or other factors, rather than actual findings of high bacteria counts.

The report says lingering damage from Hurricane Sandy has caused nine beaches to remain closed. Sewage pollution from Sandy’s flooding didn’t contribute to annual beach-closing numbers because it happened after the 2012 swimming season ended.

The report includes a 5-star rating guide to 200 of the nation’s popular beaches based on water quality and best practices for testing and public notification. No beaches in New York or New Jersey were among the 13 5-star beaches, but 14 got 4 stars.

Two beaches in the states were among the nation’s top 11 “repeat offenders,” which repeatedly show high bacteria counts. They are New Jersey’s Beachwood Beach in Ocean County and New York’s Ontario Beach in Monroe County. The borough of Beachwood began a project in 2012 to track sources of pollution and enhance beach water quality sampling.

The environmental group said the best way to prevent pollution from storm water runoff is to invest in infrastructure such as porous pavement, green roofs, parks, roadside plantings and rain barrels. Such measures prevent rain from carrying runoff from streets and overflowing sewers into waterways.

The group also called on the Environmental Protection Agency to revise water quality standards to protect swimmers from waterborne bacterial illnesses. Last week, NRDC and a coalition of other groups filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue EPA if the agency doesn’t adopt stricter water quality criteria that adequately protect beachgoers from gastrointestinal illness, rashes, eye and ear infections and other disease.

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Copyright (2013) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Tags: beaches, pollution, summer

Photo credit: Lifeguard sits on the beach in Seaside Heights, New Jersey prior to Hurricane Sandy. Tony Fischer / Flickr