Ten percent of beaches nationwide failed the federal benchmark for water quality levels considered safe for swimming, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council 24th annual beach report.
Nearly 3,500 water quality samples were collected in 2013 from beaches across the US. Only 35 beaches were labeled “superstar” beaches since they met national quality standards 98 percent of the time over the past five years. Seventeen beaches were considered “repeat offenders” with the worst water pollution.
So, which New England beaches were superstars? In Massachusetts, it’s Singing Beach in Essex County. In New Hampshire, Hampton Beach State Park, Wallis Sands Beach, and Wallis Sands State Park in Rockingham County also made the list.
However, Cockle Cove Creek in Barnstable County and Goodies Beach in Knox County were rated among the most polluted beaches. Both beaches’ water samples failed to meet the quality standards more than 25 percent of the time over the past four years.
The map below shows the New England beaches with the worst test scores.
The pollution is most often caused by stormwater runoff and sewage overflow, which leads to an influx of bacteria and potential pathogens, according to the NRDC. All who come in contact with the water may be prone to waterborne illnesses like the stomach flu, skin rashes, pinkeye, respiratory infections, meningitis and hepatitis. Children are more vulnerable because they tend to swallow more water when swimming, the report stated. Senior citizens and those with weak immune systems are also at heightened risk.
Up to 3.5 million people become ill from contact with raw sewage in swimming water each year, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates.