Dry Weather Conditions Increases Risk of Beaches Becoming Contaminated
Historically, when the weather got hot in American cities, the well-to-do would decamp for their beach homes where they hoped to get respite from the heat. Cool breezes and pristine beaches lured them from their affluent city dwellings. Today there are still people who can afford to have summer homes; however, public beaches have made them a destination for people of every class. There’s just something about the sea that enchants us, and on hot summer days, beaches are packed with those wishing to get away from it all for a little fun in the sun. Unfortunately, our beaches have become contaminated to the point where many of them may no longer be safe.
The problem during 2012 has been the dry conditions and infrequent rains. During dry periods, there is a build-up of contaminants, such as animal wastes and oil on roads. When a heavy rainstorm occurs, it washes the ground of all of these polluting elements which are then swept into local water sources, ultimately ending up in major rivers and the Gulf of Mexico. With this contamination comes high levels of bacteria that have necessitated swimming advisories being issued. Pretty much, it’s swim at your own risk.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a standard that’s used to test the amount of enterococci in bodies of water. These bacteria can cause infections, including diverticulitis, meningitis, bacteremia, bacterial endocarditis, and those of the urinary tract. The standard rates the quality of the water based on the amount of this bacteria per 100 milliliters of water, and then the water is rated good, moderate, or poor. High levels of 105 or more can cause people who swim in the water to experience gastrointestinal illnesses, mild diarrhea, skin rashes, and skin infections. This risk is greatest for small children, seniors, and those who have immune systems which have been compromised.
It is possible to install storm water separators to help reduce pollutants, but even this type of equipment cannot protect all of the water at every possible contact point, so there’s no way to keep all of our fresh water safe. Although people are free to swim at will on public beaches, they need to use caution to make sure they aren’t exposing themselves and their families to dangerous bacteria, because these bacteria are one of the unpleasant facts of modern life. Although experts will tell you that otherwise healthy people shouldn’t be affected by excessive amounts of bacteria, you still need to make wise decisions about the areas in which you swim.