Testing The Waters – NRDC

July 2, 2011 by  
Filed under Water Quality

Click the following to find your local beach:   NRDC Ratings for a Selection of U. S. Popular Beaches.

Testing the Waters 2011

En Español

NRDC’s annual survey of water quality and public notification at U.S. beaches finds that the number of beach closings and advisories in 2010 reached 24,091 — the second-highest level since NRDC began tracking these events 21 years ago, confirming that our nation’s beaches continue to suffer from bacterial pollution that puts swimmers at risk.

Testing the Waters focuses primarily on bacteria-related beach water quality concerns. This year and last year, the report also highlighted closures, advisories, and notices issued at beaches impacted by last summer’s BP oil disaster. From the beginning of the spill until June 15, 2011 there have been a total of 9,474 days of oil-related beach notices, advisories and closures at Gulf Coast beaches due to the spill.

Nearly three-quarters of the 2010 beach closings and advisories were issued because water quality monitoring revealed bacteria levels exceeding health and safety standards. Across the country, aging and poorly designed sewage treatment systems and contaminated stormwater are often to blame for beachwater pollution.

Promising developments could improve protection of public health at U.S. beaches. Most importantly, the Environmental Protection Agency has embarked upon a major overhaul of its Clean Water Act regulations that apply to urban and suburban runoff pollution. These changes have the potential to broadly ensure that impervious areas that generate runoff pollution will be designed in a way to retain a significant amount of stormwater on site.

In addition, as a result of legal pressure from NRDC, the Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to update its decades-old beachwater quality standards by 2012. The legal settlement requires EPA to:

  • Conduct new health studies and swimmer surveys.
  • Approve a water-testing method that will produce same-day results.
  • Protect beachgoers from a broader range of waterborne illnesses.

The illnesses associated with polluted beachwater include conditions such as skin rashes, pinkeye, respiratory infections, meningitis and hepatitis. By contrast, current standards focus on gastrointestinal illnesses such as the stomach flu. Current water quality tests also take 24 hours or more to produce results, so beaches are not closed or placed under advisory until after beachgoers have spent a day swimming in water that did not meet water quality standards. The EPA’s changes represent much-needed progress toward promoting safer and healthier beaches along U.S. coastlines.

Keeping Water Safe by Cleaning Up Pollution

Despite these steps forward, the agreement doesn’t actually require local beach officials to use the rapid-testing methods developed by EPA. That’s one big reason that NRDC has supported the Clean Coastal Environment and Public Health Act when it has been considered previously in Congress. This bill would push states to begin using rapid-water tests within one year of EPA validation. The measure would also authorize funding for studies that identify the sources of beachwater pollution, which is the first step towards preventing this pollution from reaching the beach. In 2010, the source of contaminated beachwater was reported as unknown more than half the time.

EPA’s reform of its regulations will be a major opportunity to advance communities’ use of green infrastructure. In addition, leaders in Congress have introduced bills to promote green infrastructure, require stormwater retention by highway development projects, and fund community infrastructure improvements.

People can also help prevent beach pollution by taking simple steps, such as picking up pet waste, maintaining septic systems, putting swim diapers with plastic covers on babies, and keeping trash off the beach.

Beach Ratings: How Clean Is Your Beach?

In 2011, NRDC rated 200 popular beaches based on the cleanliness of the water and their monitoring and public notification practices. How clean is your beach? Check the ratings here.

Dirty Beaches in NYC: Which Ones Need a Bath?

June 30, 2011 by  
Filed under Water Quality

The Natural Resources Defense Council released its annual beach water quality report yesterday and found water at a total of 134 beaches in the five boroughs and its surrounding areas had bacteria levels that exceeded state health standards.

Nationally, the report found the number of beach closings and advisories was at the second-highest level in the 18 years that the report has been issued.

According to the study, one Brooklyn swimming hole—Gerritsen/Kiddie Beach in Southern Brooklyn— was closed at different points due to bacteria levels. Five other sites in Brooklyn — including three Coney Island beaches, Kingsborough Community College Beach and Manhattan Beach– had bacteria levels that were unsafe for swimming on various days last year when samples were taken.

Gerritsen/Kiddie Beach’s water was higher than the acceptable standards for swimming 14 percent of the time. It was closed a total of 14 days.

Both Coney Island’s Brighton 15th-16th and West 16th-27th beaches had pollution levels higher than the state standard nine percent of the time.

The study also found levels that were unacceptable for swimming by New York State health standards at nine sites in the Bronx, 31 in Nassau County, 67 in Suffolk County, 17 in Westchester County and two in Staten Island.

“America’s beaches have long suffered from pollution,” said Jon Devine, a senior attorney for the defense council. “The difference is now we know what to do about it. By making our communities literally greener on land, we can make the water at the beach cleaner. In the years to come, there’s no reason we can’t reverse this dirty legacy.”

The council, which is a non-profit environmental safeguard group that would formed in 1970, found that aging sewage treatment systems and contaminated storm water were the primary reasons for polluted beach water. Pollutants included litter, floating debris and “toilet-generated waste,” according to the defense council.

In Queens, Douglas Manor Beach, a private swimming spot, exceeded the state’s acceptable standard 25 percent of the time and was closed 54 times during the course of the study and Whitestone Beach exceeded the limit 17 percent of the time and was closed 21 times.

According to the study, Nassau County’s most polluted beaches were Crescent Beach, where samples were higher 27 percent of the time, and Seacliff Beach, which exceeded the limit 16 percent of the time.

But none of these beaches were listed in the study among the state’s most polluted.

“Generally, private beaches are more susceptible to closure due to higher bacteria levels, especially during times when there is rainfall due to their location. City beaches are classified as closed or under advisory when confirmed samples show that bathing beach water quality exceeds the water quality standard for marine water beaches,” said a spokesperson from the city’s Health Department.

“During the 2010 beach season, four public beaches – Coney Island, Orchard Beach, Wolfe’s Pond and Manhattan Beach- had exceedances when the weekly scheduled samples were collected, but re-sample results showed no exceedances. Therefore, the beaches were not closed.”

Related Topics: Beaches, Breezy Point, Brooklyn, Douglas Manor Beach, Douglaston, Environment, Gerritsen/Kiddie Beach, Nassau County, National Resources Defense Council, and coney island

Article source: http://bed-stuy.patch.com/articles/dirty-beaches-in-nyc-which-ones-need-a-bath

San Diego Mayor Limits City’s Use of Single-Use Plastic Water Bottles, Plastic Foam Products

May 18, 2011 by  
Filed under Protecting Habitats

San Diego Coastkeeper applauds the action, which stems from the organization’s 2009 proposalSAN DIEGO, CA-May 18, 2011- Today San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders’ office and the Environmental Services Division announced a series of administrative regulations to limit the City’s purchase of single-use plastic water bottles and plastic foam products (often inappropriately referred to as Styrofoam™). San Diego Coastkeeper, the region’s largest environmental organization protecting inland and coastal waters, applauds the mayor’s action, which stems from the organization’s 2009 proposal urging the City Council to take the steps. The new guidelines, announced today to the San Diego City Council Natural Resources and Culture Committee (NRC) and effective on January 1, 2012, will reduce the City’s environmental impacts, potentially save money, reinforce confidence in the city’s municipal water system and set a precedent for other cities in the region.

The item was brought to the Committee after a December 2010 request from former Chair Donna Frye.  Under the strong mayor-strong council form of government, the administrative regulation does not need Council approval.  However, showing support for the ideas within the regulation, the NRC requested that the Mayor’s office report on the implementation of these policies at the November 16 NRC meeting.

“This will show great leadership to the residents of San Diego,” said City Council Member David Alvarez, who chairs NRC. He also noted that the City is the first in San Diego County to take these initial steps.
Specifically but not inclusively, the Mayor’s administrative regulation will:

  • Prohibit the purchase of single-use water bottles and water bottle dispensers with City funds, with the exception of facilities that do not have access to safe tap water to drink
  • Prohibit the purchase of plastic foam food service ware with City funds (referred to as expanded polystyrene, or EPS)
  • Develop standard language for bids that expresses the City’s commitment to eliminating plastic foam in packing materials, using alternative recyclable packing materials when available and/or vendor take back of the packing materials. This includes working with current vendors to reduce plastic foam use.
  • Revise City permit applications; including those for special events, parks and recreation facilities, and water reservoirs and lakes, to prohibit the use of plastic foam food service ware.

“We commend Mayor Sanders for demonstrating environmental leadership and fiscal responsibility with his policy limiting the City’s purchase of single-use plastic water bottles and plastic foam products,” said Alicia Glassco, San Diego Coastkeeper’s education and marine debris manager. “We hope the door will remain open to expand the restriction of plastic foam use beyond City events and that other cities will follow the Mayor’s lead and take similar action.”

The City of San Diego joins 48 California cities that have already committed to reducing plastic foam for environmental reasons and 28 jurisdictions that have limited bottled water purchases to reduce expenses and support public water systems.

“San Francisco canceled its bottled water contracts and saved half a million dollars a year,” said John Stewart, national campaign organizer with Corporate Accountability International. “San Diego will join the ranks of 1,200 cities and five states nationwide that have taken similar steps, saving millions of dollars.”

This step by Mayor Sanders comes on the heels of the statewide Senate Bill 568, which would prohibit the distribution and use of plastic foam containers by food vendors. Currently, the senate floor expects the bill sometime next week. Support organizers identified Senator Juan Vargas as a swing vote on the matter and ask that he take this action as a sign that his constituents are calling for reduced litter and debris.

San Diego Coastkeeper first proposed restricting bottled water and plastic foam at City facilities and events to former City Councilmember Donna Frye in late 2009. Coastkeeper cited beach cleanup data from across the county, which indicates a growing problem of plastic water bottles, plastic bottle caps and pieces of plastic foam littering the environment. In 2010 alone, volunteers removed more than 25,000 pieces of plastic foam, which is lightweight, floats and easily breaks into small pieces making it a challenge for removal from storm drains and the environment.

San Diego Coastkeeper’s website (http://www.sdcoastkeeper.org) hosts more information about beach cleanup data in San Diego County and the harmful effects of marine debris on the environmental, marine mammals and humans.

# # #
San Diego Coastkeeper
Founded in 1995, San Diego Coastkeeper protects the region’s inland and coastal waters for the communities and wildlife that depend on them by blending education, community empowerment and advocacy. Visit them online for more information: http://www.sdcoastkeeper.org.

Signs of the Tide, sponsored by SDG&E Smart Meter and Cook & Schmid, are community events designed to educate, engage and empower participants in issues relating to the health of San Diego’s coastal waters. The meetings rotate locations throughout San Diego. All events are free, open to the community and include light snacks and beverages.

For more information about Signs of the Tide, visit Coastkeeper’s website at www.sdcoastkeeper.org.
###
Founded in 1995, San Diego Coastkeeper protects the region’s inland and coastal waters for the communities and wildlife that depend on them by blending education, community empowerment and advocacy. Visit us online at http://www.sdcoastkeeper.org.

Beach Cleanups Phase Out Plastic Bag Usage

October 13, 2010 by  
Filed under Protecting Habitats

by Nichole Bowman

Many clean up organizations are setting wonderful examples and really getting with the program by considering their contribution to the planet’s pollution and waste problem in the materials they use for cleanups. San Diego’s Surfrider Foundation Chapter has posted on their site a new policy for cleanups (from http://www.surfridersd.org/beachcleanups.php):

PLASTIC BAGS PHASED OUT AT BEACH CLEANUPS. In an effort to send less extra stuff to the landfill we are asking that beach cleanup volunteers bring their own reusable bucket, reusable bag or a bag(s) from home that you would throw out anyway. Also, please bring work or garden gloves to use rather then then latex/disposable ones if possible. We will continue to have gloves and a small supply of bags on hand until we can fully get the word out and look to provide reusable supplies in the future.

To help out at an already coordinated cleanup, all you have to do is show up. For all beach cleanups, please wear comfortable clothes, closed toed shoes and sunscreen. Bring gardening or work gloves if you have them. If not, we would be happy to provide you with latex gloves if needed. We also provide the bags, hand sanitizer and other essentials for cleaning up trash. (Feel free to bring you own reusable bag, used bag or bucket to help limit what ends up at the garbage dump.)


While this may seem like a no brainer for some of us purists, most cleanup efforts involve using plastic bags, latex gloves, bottled water for refreshment, among other now becoming-taboo polluting products. One might have noticed this on TV watching the BP oil spill cleanup efforts in the gulf: teams of volunteers scooping up tarball-tainted sand into very large clear plastic bags, which could only hold a small amount and be easily carried. So after a few scoops, bam!, time for a new one. I couldn’t help but ask how much pertroleum was being wasted by the use of so much plastics during cleanup and that maybe there was a better solution given the scope and breadth of this disaster.

So, evidently others are getting the idea. The California Coastal Commission’s Coastal Clean Up Day advertised “BYO for CCD” and fruther stated on their website (http://www.coastal.ca.gov/publiced/ccd/ccd28.html):

For example, in 2009, Coastal Cleanup Day volunteers used more than 130,000 plastic bags and 135,000 plastic gloves during Coastal Cleanup Day. Countless cleanup sites held barbeques, lunches or snacks for volunteers, and many of these generated additional packaging and food-related waste. Thousands of volunteers drove cars to their cleanup sites around the state.

The Coastal Commission is committed to reducing the environmental footprint of Coastal Cleanup Day, but we need your help to do so! Please join our efforts this year by turning out to the Cleanup with a “Bring Your Own” philosophy.

The Kailua Beach Clean Up Day (http://plasticfreekailua.blogspot.com/) further stated that their event was “followed by a low-impact potluck.” Taking the green and sustainability movement all the way is the way to go, in our daily life, in our activism and clean up efforts and in the actions of our organizations. Kudos to those pushing forward the next evolution of responsible living.

Little Mermaid PSA Encourages Public to Help Clean Up Debris from Our Oceans

February 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Protecting Habitats

The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and its partners, launched the second phase of its Public Service Advertisement (PSA) campaign featuring characters from Disney’s film The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning (debuting on DVD August 2008), to encourage Americans to keep our ocean clean and free of debris. The first phase of the campaign, originally launched in 2006 with Disney’s Little Mermaid characters, proved such a success that the partners decided to continue the campaign in conjunction with Disney’s newest Little Mermaid film.

The campaign’s web site, www.KeepOceansClean.org. is part of a multi-media effort to help Americans understand just how massive the problem of marine debris is. Each year, an estimated 6.4 million tons of debris enters the ocean. Most of the marine debris that ends up in the ocean starts out as trash on land that isn’t properly disposed of, including consumables packaging, fast food packaging, cigarette butts/lighters, and beverage containers.

Something as innocent as balloons at a child’s birthday party that end up flying away, can end up deflated in our waterways and in the ocean. Turtles and other sea creatures mistake them for jellyfish they love to eat and often end up choking or starving to death. And when we don’t dispose of trash properly after a picnic or day at the beach, those bags and bottles and other bits of debris can end up in the water. Marine Mammals and turtle mistake them for the jellyfish they love to eat and end up choking or starving to death. Not only can sea creatures accidentally ingest this trash, they also get caught up in things like plastic soda can rings, monofilament line from abandoned fishing gear, and other types of trash.

“The good news is that the problem of trash in our oceans is one that CAN be solved,” said Lori Arguelles, President and CEO of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. “As this campaign points out, each one of us can make a huge difference by being more aware of how we dispose of trash. The ocean truly is ‘part of our world’ and The Little Mermaid characters help make that connection, especially to children, who have a huge impact on their parent’s actions, as previous land-based recycling efforts have shown.”

The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning PSA, (2008)

To learn more about the campaign and what you can do to help, visit www.KeepOceansClean.org.