Beach Bums and Dirty Surf

It's now an annual rite of summer: A publication lists the best beaches while the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) warns how many are polluted.

What's a beachgoer to do? Well, taking a dip in the ocean is not a hazard in most places - assuming you can find somewhere to park. Many of the nation's waterways are cleaner than three decades ago.

But pollutionwatchers have a point: Too many beaches are closed because of waste found in the surf.

What really bothers the NRDC, an environmental advocacy group, is how many states fail to monitor coastlines and close beaches with contaminated waters. The US has had guidelines for for beach-water quality since 1986, but too many states are inconsistent in checking water quality.

Last year, 6,160 beaches were closed nationwide, still far too many for comfort. That's almost one-third more than two years earlier, although some of the increase is due to better checking. Louisiana, Oregon, Texas, and Washington State were tagged as "beach bums" by the NRDC for irregular monitoring and lax notification.

Congress is weighing a bill to set uniform national standards for beach-water monitoring. If states would act on their own, there'd be no need for such a law.

Then they could tout their beaches as the best in America.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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