TREASURE TO TRASH, OUR NATION'S BEACHES GOING TO POT

 

 

I had a harrowing day at the beach once. When I was 5 years old my family took me to Galveston . The movie Jaws had just opened and everyone was a little on edge. It was toward the end of the day though when all hell broke loose. Out of the quiet hypnotic wave sounds burst a blood-curdling scream. “Shark! AHHhhhhh!!” I looked up from my crooked sand castle and saw my father practically running on top of the water. When he got to shore, it became apparent that the shark was in fact a jellyfish and not a very big one. My uncle’s gave him the most hilarious ribbing for the rest of the evening. This was the worst it ever got on the beach for me. Nowadays though, the thing that gets you is hard to see.

Just ask the Holmes’. Ten weeks after they spent a day at Galveston beach, their 9 year old daughter Megan came down with post-infectious gastroparesis. Now Megan will have memories of her gall-bladder surgery, emergency room visits, and living with a feeding tube. She is not alone though. Many American children have been exposed to harmful life-threatening chemicals and biological pathogens at the beach.

According to the new NRDC* report, “Testing the Waters: A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches,” the number of no-swim days caused by stormwater more than doubled from the year before. This led to “sewage spills and overflows causing 1,301 beach closings and advisory days in 2006, an increase of 402 days from 2005.” What does this statistic really say? Beaches had to be closed because there was feces on the beach.

The blame lies in our aging sewage systems and poorly designed storm run-off structures. Combine that with unrestrained development of wetlands, irresponsible sprawl on the coasts, and climate changes and you have got a formula for disease. Who suffers? Those who are already at increased risk for infection: children, the elderly, and the immune- compromised (cancer patients, people with organ transplants, HIV+, and others). Risks include gastroenteritis, dysentery, hepatitis**, respiratory ailments among other health problems.

“Families can’t use the beaches in their own communities because they are polluted. Kids are getting sick – all because of sewage and contaminated runoff from outdated, under-funded treatment systems,” said Nancy Stoner, director of NRDC’s water program. It begs the question: Are we budget cutting ourselves to death?

Before swearing off beaches forever, you should know that all is not lost. The Beach Protection Act of 2007 (H.R. 2537/S. 1506) introduced in May will reauthorize the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act (BEACH Act) of 2000. This bill will mandate rapid testing methods that can detect beach water contamination in just two hours or less as well as increase funding levels for source tracking and pollution prevention.

 

NRDC is offering beachgoers an opportunity to discuss their personal Beach Bums (bad bad beach!) and Beach Buddies (yeah, good beach!). To post a comment, visit NRDC's new Your Oceans website, where you can find fun summer tips for being safe and healthy while at the beach.

 

*NRDC is a member organization of the Gulf Restoration Network!

**Hepatitis C is not considered a risk factor as it is only transmitted through direct contact with infected blood.

 

 

Casey DeMoss Roberts is the Special Projects Coordinator for the Gulf Restoration Network

 

Tags:

Recent Posts

State Representative Malinda White of Bogalusa invited Gulf Restoration Network and The Pearl Riverkeeper to...
Written by Andrew Whitehurst
Thursday, 14 December 2017
In Mobile, Alabama the trustees from the Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA Trustees) held a...
Written by Andrew Whitehurst
Tuesday, 05 December 2017
Black Friday is coming up and as you begin preparing for the biggest shopping day...
Written by Marley Vebares
Wednesday, 22 November 2017
GRN arranged a swamp tour on November 16th for members of the Louisiana and coastal...
Written by Andrew Whitehurst
Tuesday, 21 November 2017
Mississippi’s second annual Restoration Summit convened on Tuesday Nov. 14th so the state could announce...
Written by Andrew Whitehurst
Wednesday, 15 November 2017
The House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing this month to discuss the fate of...
Written by Marley Vebares
Tuesday, 31 October 2017
And the hurricanes just kept coming… In finishing my first full month on the job...
Written by Christian Wagley
Tuesday, 24 October 2017

SHARE THIS PAGE