'While the data do not allow us to say whether beach pollution is worse now than in some prior years, there are several troubling trends that increase the likelihood of beach pollution.'
Majority of US beaches are unsafe for swimmers and even aquatic animals
Swimming in sewage-contaminated water can lead to different health problems. Approximately one in 30 people who come into contact with contaminated water are at risk of getting sick. Swallowing the water can cause stomach problems, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, vomiting, and infections. (Related: About half of US lakes, rivers are too polluted for swimming, fishing, drinking.)
This year alone, there have been multiple incidents pointing to problems with water quality at beaches across the US. In July, more than 200 dead dolphins and sea lions washed ashore on California beaches, with hundreds more being stranded in distress. Experts believe an algal bloom, caused by an explosion of nutrients in the water, potentially from sewage, triggered the disaster.
In March, Florida's shores were hit by a 5,000-mile blanket of rotting seaweed, known as the "red tide." Residents reported burning eyes, breathing difficulties, and dead fish littering the beach. Toxic red algae blooms, associated with nutrient buildup like nitrogen, which can be linked to sewage, were responsible for the seaweed deaths.
Several factors contribute to the contamination of beaches with feces. Storms can sweep feces into the sea as rainwater overloads drains and sewage systems, causing them to overflow. Additionally, rivers can carry manure from industrial farms, depositing it into the ocean.
Despite Congress allocating $11.7 billion for repair work to sewage systems and the construction of new storm water drainage systems in 2021, the efforts have not yet reduced water pollution. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that an additional $271 billion is needed to address the problem adequately.