EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

July 12, 2014

Local beaches get report cards on water quality

The winners, the losers

BOSTON – Mingo Beach in Beverly Farms is known for its rocky shores and breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean, but its water quality is among the lowest in the state, according to a new report.

A popular spot for students at nearby Endicott College, the beach failed to meet stringent new federal government standards for water quality, a report from the National Resource Defense Council found. Of 18 water samples taken there in 2013, at least 44 percent exceeded daily bacterial maximum, the report said.

“That’s kind of nasty,” said Carol Perkins, 23, of Peabody. “I swim on that beach a lot.”

Nationwide, NRDC collected the results of water samples from nearly 3,500 beaches in 2013. Only 35 of those beaches made the “superstar” level, including the popular Singing Beach in Manchester.

Unlike previous reports, the Washington D.C.-based environmental group used tough, new standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to assess the level of beachcontamination. The benchmarks use lower levels of acceptable water pollution from human and animal waste to gauge the potential health impact on beachgoers.

Overall, Massachusetts ranked 14 out of 30 states for beach water quality. The state had 10 percent of its samples exceed daily bacterial maximum, a 4 percent increase from 2012, the report said.

Beach water pollution can cause a range of illnesses in swimmers including skin rashes, pinkeye, ear, nose and throat problems, dysentery, respiratory ailments and other serious health problems, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, which monitors water quality in the state.

For senior citizens, small children and people with weak immune systems, the results can be fatal, according to state health officials. The incidence of infections has been increasing over the past several decades, and with coastal populations growing the numbers are expected to climb.

“Sewage and contaminated runoff in the water should never ruin a family beach trip,” said NRDC senior attorney Jon Devine.“But no matter where you live, urban slobber and other pollution can seriously compromise the water quality at your favorite beach and make your family sick.”

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