Not Exactly a Day at the Beach

Yesterday I cooked out with friends from the Appalachian Mountain Club at Fort Williams State Park in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.  Our group shivered in the cool mist and watched a few tourists attempt to swim. It was the first time I’d been to the beach all summer; the last time was in April, on that freaky Sunday when it was in the 80s and people stripped down to swimsuits at Scarborough Beach. I took pictures of surfers and waded in the cold foamy water. But this summer has been so rainy—60 days and nights of rain at least—that many Maine residents and visitors haven’t had a chance to enjoy the beaches. What’s worse, even on the occasional sunny day, numerous state beaches have been closed throughout the nation because of run-off. Those who go despite the warnings and “closed” signs, deal with stinky streams of run-off, dead things, dirty water. Not exactly a day at the beach, folks.

But is the run-off bad for beaches because of the pollution that comes along with it, or is the amount of freshwater run-off the main problem, with effects of erosion as a side-effect?

The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) just released a report about this very phenomenon: New Report Offers 5-Star Rating Guide for 200 Popular U.S. Beaches and Analysis Revealing Climate Change to Make Water Pollution Worse For press release, go to: http://www.nrdc.org/media/2009/090729.asp
For the full report, visit: http://www.nrdc.org/water/oceans/ttw/titinx.asp

The run-off problem affects people and wildlife. For example, a recent report by the U.S. Geological Survey shows that the sea otter population along California’s coast experienced the most alarming decline in a decade. Laboratory tests show the otters are dying off from bacteria, viruses and parasites from urban sewage and agricultural runoff that pollute creeks and coastal waters. See USGS’s June 2009 report here http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=2247 and a related NOAA article from 2003, http://www.magazine.noaa.gov/stories/mag72.htm

On top of the run-off problem, beaches are under another set of pressures from climate change, including sea level rise. For various studies and reports on sea level rise, visit ASWM’s climate change webpage, at:  http://aswm.org/wetland-science/climate-change
To visit an interesting blog on this topic, visit:
http://carbon-based-ghg.blogspot.com/2009/07/threat-to-maines-beaches.html

Check out these related links to stories about beach closings around the country and information on some state beach quality monitoring programs.

Maine Healthy Beaches Program
http://www.mainehealthybeaches.org/science.html

Coastal Alabama Beach Monitoring Program
http://www.adem.state.al.us/fieldops/Monitoring/BeachMonitoring.htm

Rhode Island Beach Monitoring Program
http://www.ribeaches.org/

Iowa Beach Monitoring Program
http://wqm.igsb.uiowa.edu/activities/beach/beach.htm

Oregon Beach Monitoring Program
http://www.oregon.gov/DHS/ph/beaches/index.shtml

Mississippi Beach Monitoring Program
http://www.usm.edu/gcrl/msbeach/index.cgi

Michigan Beach Monitoring Program
Beach Closings in California
http://yubanet.com/california/Beach-Closing-Days-in-California-Reached-Over-4-100-in-2008.php

Beach Closings in Wisconsin
http://www.madison.com/wsj/home/local/459553
And for related information, go to:
http://www.cwac.net/beach_closings/index.html

Beach Warnings in Boston, MA area
http://www.wbz.com/Bacteria-warnings-posted-at-4-Boston-area-beaches/4881854

Beach Closings in New Jersey
http://www.kyw1060.com/pages/4836964.php?

Testing the Waters in CT
http://www.hartfordadvocate.com/article.cfm?aid=13902

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