United States

Over half of U.S. beaches are potentially unsafe due to poop contamination: report

Last year, over 50% of beaches tested nationwide had at least one day when fecal contamination reached unsafe levels to swim.

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A favorite way to beat the heat over the summer is to cool down on various shorelines from lakes to oceans, but a startling new report could make you think twice before diving in.

About half of the beaches nationwide tested potentially unsafe last year due to fecal contamination levels with at least one day exceeding the Environment Protection Agency's "Beach Action Value," a preventative tool to measure bacteria, according to a report by Environment America.

Based on the collected data, one in nine waterfronts had hazardous poop on at least 25% of the days testing was completed. The Gulf Coast tested the dirtiest with over 80% of the coasts contaminated with the West Coast and Great Lakes falling behind.

While results vary by state, New York wins the most likely dangerous out of the tri-state neighbors with New Jersey and Connecticut following suit.

Nearly 350 beaches in New York were tested for fecal bacteria, and over half reached unsafe standards within the Great Lakes and Long Island. The top questionable shores were Ontario Beach in Monroe County and Tanner Beach in Suffolk County.

Atlantic County in N.J. and Fairfield County in Conn. had the most potentially alarming days last year.

Upticks in bacteria can come from sources like sewage overflow, polluted stormwater and decaying infrastructure that helps raw sludge to enter the waterways.

Around 90 million cases of illness due to water recreation occur nationwide with costs up to $3.7 billion annually, according to a study in Environmental Health. Almost 60% of those illnesses are attributed to swimming, but many similar ailments go unreported.

Gastrointestinal, sinus and respiratory issues are common when playing in problematic lakes, oceans, rivers and ponds.

To Environment America, some of the best ways to improve water quality at beaches are to invest in natural infrastructure, modernize sewage systems and enact moratoriums on large-scale livestock operations.

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