Survey Reveals 1 in 10 U.S. Beaches Fails Bacteria Test

Storm-water runoff, including sewage, continues to threaten swimmers' health

WEDNESDAY, June 25, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Ten percent of water samples taken from U.S. coastal and lake beaches fail to meet safety standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a new report finds.

Of nearly 3,500 samples taken annually at beaches around the country, Great Lakes beaches have the highest failure rate, with excessively high bacteria levels, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. This finding confirms that water pollution caused by storm-water runoff and sewage overflows persists at many U.S. beaches, the agency said. Storm-water runoff often includes trash, chemicals, oil, and animal and human waste as well as bacteria and viruses.

In the Great Lakes, 13 percent of samples failed to meet federal public health standards. Other regions with excessively high bacteria in swimming water samples include: the Gulf Coast (12 percent), New England (11 percent), the western coast (9 percent), New York and New Jersey coasts (7 percent), and the southeast (7 percent). States with the highest failure rates include: Ohio (35 percent), Alaska (24 percent) and Mississippi (21 percent). The Delmarva Peninsula area on the East Coast was found to have cleaner water; only 4 percent of samples failed the test. Three states were found to have a failure rate of just 3 percent: Delaware, New Hampshire and New Jersey.

"There can be hidden dangers lurking in many of our waterways in the form of bacteria and viruses that can cause a great inventory of illnesses like dysentery, hepatitis, stomach flu, infections and rashes," Steve Fleischli, water program director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said at a Wednesday morning press conference.

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