(WKRG/WFLA) — Living on the Gulf Coast means you’re not too far from a beach. But as it turns out, the water is not always safe, according to USA Today.
In an article entitled “There’s ‘poop in the water’ at America’s dirtiest beaches. Is yours on the list?,” the newspaper cites a study, which names the dirtiest beaches in 29 states along the U.S. coast or Great Lakes. Five Alabama beaches made the list, one in Mobile County and four in Baldwin County. Of the beaches in Florida, two are in Escambia County.
Researchers sampled 4,500 beaches in 29 coastal and Great Lakes states and found that nearly 60% had bacteria counts exceeding Environmental Protection Agency standards, according to the report, which is from the Environment America Research and Policy Center. High counts can sicken an estimated 75,000 swimmers a year, the report states.
The report says 85% of sites were contaminated at least one day on the Gulf Coast, which had the lowest success rate.
• Fairhope Public Beach, Baldwin (21 unsafe days, 60 samples)
• Dog River, Alba Club, Mobile (9, 36)
• Camp Beckwith, Baldwin (8, 58)
• Volanta Avenue, Baldwin (8, 36)
• Orange Street Pier, Baldwin (6, 34)
• Bayou Texar, Escambia (24 unsafe days, 50 samples)
• Sanders Beach, Escambia (23, 64)
• Crandon Park on Key Biscayne, Miami-Dade (17, 63)
• Bird Key Park, Sarasota (17, 67)
• Venice Fishing Pier, Sarasota (15, 64)
“All too often, our beaches have pollution that puts swimmers at risk,” John Rumpler, a co-author of the report and director of Environment America’s clean water program, told HuffPost. “That’s just totally unacceptable.”
The City of Fairhope released a statement about one of their beaches making the list.
“In the City of Fairhope we strive to be proactive concerning the water quality and the health of Mobile Bay. We have identified and started the aggressive rehabilitation for our wastewater collection, transmission and treatment system, and we have the most stringent stormwater quality requirements of any in Coastal Alabama.
However, one of our concerns as a municipality is that water quality in the bay can’t be controlled or affected by the act of just one city. The water quality of Mobile Bay is not only a joint effort between the western and eastern sides of the bay but also all our neighbors upstream.
The Mobile River Delta System is the second largest in the United States, with nearly 2/3 of Alabama draining into our bay. Failing septic systems, which are used by 1 in 4 Americans, are a serious source of water pollution with a 5-35% failure rate. That’s something we can’t control as a municipality. Every failing septic system or any illicit discharge in this watershed affects the water quality in Mobile Bay. There are many factors outside our control, but Fairhope is committed to being a leader in water quality. We encourage everyone to join us.”
The article notes that most days of the year, the beaches were considered safe. And although the statistics are alarming, experts say this doesn’t necessarily mean the beaches are more polluted than others–they might just be sampled more frequently. And most agencies respond appropriately when pollution levels are too high by closing beaches and posting signs to warn beachgoers.
The experts recommend that those heading to the beach check water-quality reports before their arrival.
“This is a problem we can solve,” Rumpler said. “Most of this beach pollution comes from runoff and sewage overflows, and by investing in smart kinds of green infrastructure we can prevent this pollution and keep our beaches safe for swimming.”