Closings of beaches in Md., U.S. fewer in '07

July 30, 2008|By Timothy B. Wheeler

Beach closings and warnings about unhealthy water declined last year in Maryland and across the United States but remain a problem, an environmental group reported yesterday.

Closures and swimming advisories at the state's 68 Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean beaches were down 23 percent last year, compared with 2006, according to the report by the Natural Resources Defense Council. Overall, bacteria levels at Maryland beaches failed federal health standards 7 percent of the time in 2007, down from 12 percent in 2006.

The beaches with the worst bacteria readings last year were Colchester in Anne Arundel County, where the water exceeded federal standards 42 percent of the time, and Carpenter's Point Beach in Cecil County, which failed 40 percent of its tests.

Two Maryland beaches listed in last year's report as among the unhealthiest in the country showed significant improvement in 2007. At Hacks Point, a small community beach on the Bohemia River in Cecil County, bacteria levels exceeded federal health standards 23 percent of the time, down from 60 percent in 2006. Bay Country Campground and Beach near Rock Hall in Kent County failed in 25 percent of its tests, compared with 56 percent the year before.

Nationwide, pollution-related closures of ocean, bay and Great Lakes beaches declined nearly 12 percent last year from the all-time high in 2006, but the group said the 2007 closure total was still second-highest during the 18 years it has been monitoring beach safety.

Sewage leaks and spills and polluted runoff from land are the chief sources of contamination of swimming waters, the NRDC said. Serena Ingre, spokeswoman for the group, urged Congress to enact pending beach protection legislation that would provide more federal funds to states and localities for more water testing and for the upgrading of sewer and storm water systems that pollute. To review the report and see data on Maryland beaches, go to www.nrdc.org/water/oceans/ttw/titinx.asp.

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