Tawala Sharp

Tawala Sharp

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Study Finds Disturbing Amount of Fecal Contamination at U.S. Beaches

Aerial view of New Smyrna Beach

Photo: Getty Images

As the summer season gets underway, a new report finds that many coastal U.S. waterways, including popular beaches for swimming, are contamination with unsafe levels of fecal bacteria.

After sampling water sites around the country, the Surfrider Foundation, an ocean protection advocacy organization, found unsafe levels of fecal contamination at 19% of the 9,095 water samples. Of the 496 sites sampled 301---61%-- had at least one sample from last year that tested above the recreational water health standard.

During storms, U.S. beaches are oftern inundated with runoff from streets and sewers, bringing bacteria into the ocean or inland waterways such as rivers and lakes.

"Septics and cesspools, when it rains, can it leach effluent out into local waterways," Maria Dias, Surfrider's water qualirt initinative senior manager said.

Exposure to fecal pollution presents a variety of health risks. The most common symptoms are rashes, ear, nose, and throat infections, gastrointestinal, and infections to open cuts.

Many states or local governments monitor the presence of bacteria in the water at heavily used beaches during the summer and post warnings online.

Clean water advocates say Congress should invest more money in upgrading water infrastructure, such as replacing septic systerms and combined sewer systems and combined sewer systems with separated municipal sewer and storm water pipes, which need to be properly maintained.

Replacing a combined sewer systerm with a separated system in a large city could be prohibitively difficult and expensive. Hopefully, we can make progress in a short amount of time.

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