Report: American Beaches Are Brimming With Bacteria

kieferpix/iStock via Getty Images
kieferpix/iStock via Getty Images

A day at the beach is not always a day at the beach. According to a new report on water quality at 4523 beaches across the United States, more than half demonstrated potentially unsafe levels of bacteria for at least one day in 2018. The main culprit? Fecal contamination. If that makes you feel like packing up your beach umbrella and towels, there are some caveats to keep in mind.

The report [PDF] was prepared by Environment America Research and Policy Center, which examined the water quality of beaches in 29 states and Puerto Rico in 2018 using data collected by local, state, and federal agencies. Of the sites evaluated, 2620 were considered unsafe to swim in for at least one day. Six hundred and five sites were unsafe on 25 percent of the days that samples were collected. The determination was made by examining bacteria levels according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s threshold, or Beach Action Value (BAV). That guideline specifies contamination as being unsafe if levels could conceivably make 32 out of 1000 swimmers ill.

The triggering element? Poop. Specifically, bacteria from fecal matter that’s present in water as a result of storm runoff from urban areas. The rainwater can pick up bacteria from yards or streets and flow into water; sewage leaks can also be at fault. Germs like Escherichia coli or Enterococcus seep into the water and can then be introduced to swimmers' gastrointestinal systems when they swallow water, causing illness. The bacteria can also prompt skin infections or respiratory disease.

In Florida, 180 of 263 beach sites tested exceeded the BAV limits. In New York, 276 of 422 sites were deemed unsafe for at least one testing day.

Environment America recommends increased federal oversight that can provide same-day testing and post water quality warnings when appropriate, as well as bring older sewage systems up to date.

Naturally, not everyone agrees with the report’s conclusions. Officials in Maine, for example, which had water quality issues at roughly half of 85 sampled sites, responded to the findings by saying 93 percent of their samples collected in 2018 were below the approved threshold for safe recreation and that 97.2 percent of beach days were free from any contamination advisories or closures. Maine and other states often have a higher threshold for bacteria before waters are deemed unsafe. In Maine’s case, it’s 104 colony-forming units (CFUs) of enterococcus bacteria per 100 milliliters of water, higher than the blanket 60 CFUs of the Beach Action Value. There’s not necessarily a “wrong” number, as the EPA approves of both. Maine officials also argued that tested sites would have higher numbers shortly after heavy precipitation.

Anyone concerned about swimming in public beaches should be aware of recent rainfall that could lead to increased urban runoff, which could result in more bacteria in the water. Swimmers should also avoid swallowing water, and make a habit of showering after going to the beach.

[h/t Forbes]

Amazon’s Big Fall Sale Features Deals on Electronics, Kitchen Appliances, and Home Décor


If you're looking for deals on items like Keurigs, BISSELL vacuums, and essential oil diffusers, it's usually pretty slim pickings until the holiday sales roll around. Thankfully, Amazon is starting these deals a little earlier with their Big Fall Sale, where customers can get up to 20 percent off everything from home decor to WFH essentials and kitchen gadgets. Now you won’t have to wait until Black Friday for the deal you need. Make sure to see all the deals that the sale has to offer here and check out our favorites below.



- BISSELL Lightweight Upright Vacuum Cleaner $170 (save $60)

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Home office Essentials


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Home Improvement


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Thailand National Park Officials Mailed Trash Back to Litterbugs

Spiderstock/iStock via Getty Images
Spiderstock/iStock via Getty Images

If hefty fines aren't enough to stop people from littering in Thailand's national parks, officials hope that good, old-fashioned guilt-tripping will do the trick. As The New York Times reports, Khao Yai National Park in central Thailand responded to a recent littering offense by mailing abandoned trash back to the litterbugs who left it there.

The responsible party left behind a tent filled with trash after camping overnight in Khao Yai. In Thailand, littering in a national park is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $16,000 fine. The park officials took a less conventional approach to this particular crime. After cross-referencing equipment rental forms with a discarded prescription bottle, they were able to track down the offenders and mail them their forgotten garbage.

The clear bag of trash came with a note. “You have forgotten some of your belongings at the Khao Yai National Park,” it read. “Please let us return these to you.” Varawut Silpa-archa, Thailand's environment minister, referenced the incident in a Facebook post, writing, “I will pick up every single piece of your trash, pack them well in a box, and mail it to your home as a souvenir." In addition to getting a package of trash in the mail, the unidentified campers have also been banned from staying in the park overnight.

Officials tasked with protecting the environment have seen firsthand the damage litter can cause. Plastics can take centuries to break down, and in that time they pose a serious threat to wildlife. Trash that builds up in places where people seek refuge can also be bad for their mental health. A 2015 study found that seeing litter on a beach counters the restorative qualities of being in nature.

[h/t The New York Times]