Summer has officially arrived and for many people that means pulling the floaties out of storage and hitting the beach. Well, before you barrel onto the freeway to hit the surf and sand, it’s worth doing some research about just what is waiting for you in that water – and we’re not talking sharks.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council’s 23rd annual beach water quality report, released Wednesday, many of America’s beaches have some serious water pollution issues. But never fear, the report also includes beaches with 5-star “superstar” ratings, so you can skip the bacteria soup and head to a better beach.
“Sewage and contaminated runoff in the water can spoil a family vacation real fast, turning a day of lounging at the beach into a day at the doctor’s office with a sick child,” said NRDC senior attorney Jon Devine.
The report, “Testing the Waters: A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches,” is a collection of the latest beach water quality data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from more than 3,000 testing locations nationwide. Click here for the full report and zip-code searchable map.
This report focuses on just one but critical element of beach water quality: bacterial contamination –so pollution pretty much created by human and animal waste. The authors note that there are all types of pollution that destroy beaches and cause serious illness, and a definitive list on the “cleanest” and “dirtiest” beaches based on all these types of pollutants would be “almost impossible” to put together.
So with that in mind, here’s a list of some of America’s cleanest and dirtiest beaches.
1Cleanest – Alabama: Gulf Shores Public Beach in Baldwin Countyflickr/John Tuggle
The only real thing to do in Gulf Shores is enjoy the beaches, so luckily they hold some of the best in the country. There are plenty of places to park at most public beaches and there are many beach access routes for pedestrians looking to sprawl out on the sand.
2Cleanest – Maryland: Ocean City at Beach 6 in Worcester CountyiStock
In Ocean City, Maryland’s only coastal community, the beach is the main attraction. The good news is that it will stay that way, the water is top notch.
3Cleanest – California: Bolsa Chica Beach in Orange Countyflickr/Trader Chris
Famous for its aquatic wildlife, Bolsa Chica State Beach is a popular place for surf fishing for perch, corbina, croaker, cabezon and sand sharks. And the water those guys are living in is just fine.
4Cleanest – California: San Clemente State Beach – Avenida CalafiaHannah Arista Photograpy
Located north of San Diego, this beach is popular with visitors for its great swimming conditions with relatively few rocks and manageable waves good for body surfing and wading out. It’s water quality also gets top ratings from the NRDC because less than 5 percent of water samples exceeded national standards from 2010-2012.
5Cleanest – New Hampshire: Wallis Sands Beach in Rockingham Countyflickr/not on your nelly
Wallis Sands State Park offers oceanfront swimming, views of the Isles of Shoals, and a sandy beach which is especially popular with families. It will likely continue to stay popular, considering it ranks as one of the cleanest beaches in the country.
6Dirtiest – California: Doheny State Beach in Orange CountyHannah Arista Photography
Fifty-seven percent of monitoring samples collected at Doheny State Beach exceeded the state’s daily maximum bacterial standards. While the beach may have good surfing, it definitely does not have good water.
7Dirtiest – New York: Ontario Beach in Monroe Countyflickr/S Karr
Of the 270 water samples collected at Ontario Beach in Monroe County, 30 percent had bacteria levels that exceeded state standards. If you go, stick near the park, where there is a menagerie carousel and boating. Just don’t fall in the water.
8Dirtiest – New Jersey: Beachwood Beach in Ocean Countyflickr/Elizabeth Swift
Thirty-one percent of the water samples tested at New Jersey’s Beachwood Beach exceeded state bacteria levels. This shoreline comes fully equipped with tennis courts, we suggest you use those instead of taking a dip.
9Dirtiest – Wisconsin: South Shore Beach in Milwaukee CountyWisconsin Beach Health
Of the water samples collected at Wisconsin’s South Shore Beach, 39 percent of them exceeded the state standard for bacteria. This beach contains an interesting landmark, a bath house built in the 1930’s that now acts as a pavilion near the water’s edge. We suggest a visit, just not into the water.
10Dirtiest – California: Poche County Beach in Orange CountyHannah Arista Photography
Fifty-eight percent of water samples collected at Poche County Beach in California were above the state’s bacteria level standard. A recent local report from the beach warned visitors that “high bacteria counts are linked to illnesses such as stomach flu, ear infections and skin rashes.”