The Natural Resources Defense Council's annual report ranks Coastal and Great Lakes beaches on water quality.
The Testing the Waters report monitors bacteria levels in beach water throughout the country. It ranked the thirty Coastal and Great Lakes states. It also named Superstar Beaches, that scored perfectly, and repeat offenders that have continually scored poorly.
In New Jersey in 2010 there were 109 closing or advisory days, which was a 39% decrease from 2009. Only two percent of the state’s beach water samples exceeded the national standards. In 2009, five percent of samples exceeded the standard placing the state in 14th in the nation. In New York in 2010 the percentage of samples exceeding health standards was nine percent (compared to eleven percent in 2009) and ranked 19th in the nation. There were 956 closing and advisory days.
According to the report and the council’s senior attorney Larry Levine, rainfall is a huge part of water pollution. “The two primary causes [of beach water pollution] are runoff…and sewage discharges. Both of those are triggered by rainfall,” Levine said. He attributed the lower percentages of bacteria in the samples in both New York and New Jersey to the dry summer we had in 2010.
“The problem is we shouldn’t have to rely on a dry, hot summer to be able to enjoy our beaches in safety,” Levine continued. “The best solution is to stop pollution at its source and in this case that means keeping runoff out of the sewer system in the first instance,” and he pointed to using “green infrastructure” such as green roofs and permeable pavement that would absorb rain water before it hits the sewer system.
The NRDC reported that In Nassau County on Long Island, basin filtration systems were installed which led to cleaner storm water entering the bays. In Lindenhurst, the library used porous pavement for their parking lot, helping New York lower its bacteria percentage ratings.