Blue Water Task Force, Partnerships, Solutions, Source Identification, Water Quality
July 01 2011

Testing the Waters 2011

by Mara Dias

The usual culprits were sited for causing the majority of these beach closures: sewage leaks and spills, malfunctioning septic systems, agricultural runoff, wildlife, and the number one prize winner every year - stormwater runoff.  EPA estimates that more than 10 trillion gallons of untreated stormwater make their way into our surface waters each year!  View the entire Testing the Waters report online.

Rather discouraging is the fact that this high level of beach closures was reported despite less monitoring last year as state and county beach programs across the country took hits due to budget woes.  Some of our Chapter's Blue Water Task Force water testing programs were mentioned in the report as helping to extend state beach monitoring programs into the 'off-season' (Rhode Island and New Hampshire) and assisting with pollution identification and source tracking work (Kaua'i). 

Two beaches where Surfrider Chapters used their BWTF data to first identify and bring attention to bacteria pollution problems were highlighted in this report, including Larrabee State Park in Washington and Nye Beach in Oregon.  In Washington, the Northwest Straits Chapter continues to work with the Washington BEACH program to look for bacteria sources after the pollution persists even after leaking septic systems in the area were fixed.  Read more here.

At Nye Beach in Newport, Oregon beachwater quality has improved, from 32% exceedances in 2007 to 7% in 2008 and 0% in 2009 and 2010.  This is after the City discovered and fixed sewage cross connections leading to the stormwater drain at Nye Beach.  This was after multiple asks from Surfrider members and youth volunteers to investigate the pollution that they had been measuring at this beach.  While the improvement in beach water quality is great news, Surfrider continues to be concerned about bacteria pollution that discharges onto the beach from the storm drain and is present in the shallow creek that many kids like to play in.  Read more here.

In addition to the normal bacteria-related beach issues, this year's Testing the Waters report includes a chapter on beach closures and advisories caused by last year's BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  From the beginning of the spill until June 15, 2011 there were a total of 9,474 days of oil-related beach notices, advisories and closures at Gulf Coast beaches, and it is likely that this number far underestimates the total impact on the spill on Gulf beaches because the after-spill monitoring efforts at most locations was not adequate.  In fact, our Emerald Coast Chapter continues to monitor and find dispersed oil in the sand at Florida Gulf Coast Beaches.  Learn more about their oil monitoring program from their water testing information center

NRDC's Testing the Waters Report online.