- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 8, 2007

A record number of pollution-related beach closings were reported in the United States last year, the Natural Resources Defense Council revealed yesterday.

NRDC’s 17th annual report, “Testing the Waters: A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches,” compiled data on beach advisories and closings as well as information on the frequency and results of water testing.

The report named six “Beach Bums,” where more than half of the water samples exceeded the national public health standard for bacteria.

Two beaches in the Washington metropolitan area made the list: Hacks Point and the Bay Country Campground and Beach, both on the northeastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland.

Increased rain combined with outdated sewage systems account for a large part of the increase in beach advisories and closings. “When it rains, pollution pours onto our beaches,” said Nancy Stoner, director of NRDC’s water program.

“We need to repair and replace the aging sewer systems that we have,” Ms. Stoner said. “Congress needs to help communities to make that happen.”

The NRDC report recommends action at all levels of government, but Ms. Stoner said the interstate nature of pollution makes it a federal issue. NRDC supports the Federal Beach Protection Act of 2007, which would provide federal aid to communities and require more rapid testing at beaches. Tests in some states take days to determine whether beaches are safe.

Angela Logomasini of the Competitive Enterprise Institute agreed that poor infrastructure deserves a significant share of the blame for beach water pollution, but said some federal regulations may cause more problems than they solve.

Because of existing federal water regulations, localities “can’t afford to clean out the sewage systems,” Ms. Logomasini said. “The better solution is to try to find ways to free up resources through reducing needless regulation on localities, so they can address the most serious problems.”

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