Most Polluted Beaches in the US

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Fancy a nice refreshing dip in a cool lake or at a beautiful beach this scorching summer? Hold that thought. Before you even dip a toe in that water, you might want to check its contamination ranking.

"From human and animal waste to dangerous oil slicks, our nation's beaches continue to suffer from pollution that can make people sick, harm marine life and destroy coastal economies," says David Beckman, Director of the Water Program for the Natural Resources Defense Council, who released their Testing the Waters 2010 report Wednesday. The NRDC monitors the country's most popular swimming beaches and ranks them according to the bacterial pollution found in 3,000 ocean beaches, bays, and lakes around the country over the course of the previous year.

The 2010 report also includes a special supplement on beach closings and advisories related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, but it's obviously not just the Gulf Coast that's in trouble. In 2009, closings and advisories at the nation's beaches hit the sixth highest level in the report's 20 year history, with a staggering 18,682 closings and advisory days nationwide. Contaminated water is mostly caused by storm runoff, according to the study, and can lead to such ailments as stomach flu, pink eye, respiratory illnesses, and hepatitis. Beaches everywhere from Lake Michigan to sugar spun shores of Florida are covered in the report, and the findings are far from postcard perfect. On a state-by-state level, Louisiana, Rhode Island and Illinois beaches showed the highest number of pollution violations in 2009. Regionally, Great Lakes area beaches had the highest number of contamination incidents, while beaches in the southeast part of the Delmarva Peninsula in the mid-Atlantic tested cleanest. Read on for the ten beaches with the highest percentage of pollution.


10. Poche County Beach, Orange County, California
Total Samples: 78
Monitoring Frequency: five times per week
Percentage of Samples that exceeded pollution standards:63 percent
Ranked 11 during last year's survey, this northernmost of San Clemente's beaches moved into the top tier of the nation's polluted beaches by failing pollution standards 63 percent of the time. Poche Beach has been ranked by environmental groups over the years as one of California's most polluted beaches, with stormwater and streetwater runoff blamed for the high levels of bacteria.

9. Jeorse Park Beach II, Lake County, Indiana
Total Samples: 78
Monitoring Frequency: five times weekly
Percentage of Samples that exceeded pollution standards: 63 percent
With a ranking that moves it up the pollution scale this year from tenth to ninth place, this Lake Michigan swimming area exceeded the maximum acceptable levels of human and animal bacteria in its waters 63 percent of the time during tests performed five times per week in 2009. Yet it's not the most polluted beach in the area (see which similarly named beach came in on top, or bottom).

8. Singing Bridge Beach, Arenac County, Michigan
Total Samples: 14
Monitoring Frequency: once weekly
Percentage of Samples that exceeded pollution standards:64 percent
This Saginaw Bay beach in Arenac County, Michigan, has been closed for several days already during the 2010 summer due to high levels of E. coli contamination discovered in its waters. Weekly testing in 2009 showed that some 64 percent of the water samples here exceeded pollution standards. Not exactly something to sing about.

7. Jackson Park Beach (63rd Street Beach), Cook County, Illinois
Total Samples: 76
Monitoring Frequency: five times weekly
Percentage of Samples that exceeded pollution standards:66 percent
This Chicago beach on Lake Michigan is home to a beautiful and historic bathing pavilion that draws beachgoers looking for refreshment from the summertime heat. But they might get more than they bargained for. The beach was tested five times weekly in 2009, and failed pollution standards 66 percent of the time.

6. St. Clair Shores Memorial Park Beach, Macomb County, Michigan
Total Samples: 124
Monitoring Frequency: twice weekly
Percentage of Samples that exceeded pollution standards:66 percent
This isn't the only St. Clair beach absent from last year's list that made the top ten this year. Despite its name, Memorial Park Beach managed to be closed due to contamination during the 2010 Memorial Day weekend (not to mention several other days). Stick to the park's picnic area and playground rather than dipping into the water.

5. Cockle Cove Creek, Barnstable County, Massachusetts
Total Samples: 10
Monitoring Frequency: once weekly
Percentage of Samples that exceeded pollution standards:70 percent
The calm waters of this Nantucket Sound beach might be perfect for families, but the pollution factor is far from family-friendly. Despite the fact that its down one spot from last year's number four rank, this fifth most polluted beach exceeded pollution standards 70 percent of the time during weekly tests in 2009.

4. Kings at Stacy Brook, Essex County, Massachusetts
Total Samples: 24
Monitoring Frequency: once weekly
Percentage of Samples that exceeded pollution standards: 71 percent
This Essex County beach near Plum Island improved ever so slightly from last year's number two position to place fourth most polluted in 2010, with 71 percent of findings exceeding pollution standards in this year's study compared to 72 percent during the year prior. But we doubt the one-percent improvement will have many Bostonians pining for a day at this beach.

3. St. Clair Shores Blossom Heath Beach, Macomb County, Michigan
Total Samples: 141
Monitoring Frequency: twice weekly
Percentage of Samples that exceeded pollution standards:71 percent
Despite its cheerful name, the findings aren't happy for this county beach on Lake St. Clair that's frequently closed by the health department due to high levels of E. coli in the water (sewage runoff is to blame).



2. Avalon Beach -- North of GP Pier, Los Angeles, California
Total Samples: 50
Monitoring Frequency: once per week
Percentage of Samples that exceeded pollution standards: 72 percent
Los Angeles' beaches have long lagged in water quality compared to the rest of the state, and this city beach moved up from sixth place in last year's rankings to the second most polluted place on the 2010 list. The stretch of Avalon Beach north of GP pier is the most contaminated. Swim at your own risk.

1. Jeorse Park Beach I, Lake County, Indiana
Total Samples: 78
Monitoring Frequency: five times per week
Percentage of Samples that exceeded pollution standards:
76 percent
Visitors to Indiana looking to "restart your engines," as the official tourism slogan encourages, might want to do so far from this stretch of sand. This public access beach on Lake Michigan moved from third place in 2008 to take the cake as the country's most polluted beach, with 76 percent of the water samples taken exceeding pollution standards for human and animal waste. The beach has also been closed for several days in 2010 due to bacterial contamination.


Photo Credits: Jeorse Park Beach - Alamy; Avalon Beach - yourbuddybill, flickr; St. Clair Shores Blossom Heath Beach - Alamy; Kings at Stacy Brook - lehcar1477, flickr; Cockle Cove Creek - Getty Images; St. Clair Shores Memorial Park Beach - Getty Images; Jackson Park Beach - nsub1, flickr; Singing Bridge Beach - Getty Images; Jeorse Park Beach II - Scott Olson, Getty Images; Poche County Beach - GraemeThickins, flickr

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