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35 Superstar Beaches (And 17 You Might Want to Reconsider)
by Nicole D'Alessandro

If one of your favorite summertime activities is a trip to the nearest beach (or a vacation to the shore), then you’ll want to read this.

In its 24th annual beach report released yesterday, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) designated 35 popular U.S. beaches across 14 states as “superstars.” Beaches were rated on how closely they met water quality safety benchmarks; the superstars met the standards 98 percent of the time during the past five years.

But before perusing the list of 35, think about this: why aren’t all U.S. beaches superstars?

The fact is that 10 percent of the water samples collected in 2013 from nearly 3,500 coastal and Great Lakes beaches contained levels of bacteria that failed to meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s most stringent benchmark for swimmer safety, as outlined in EPA’s newly created “Beach Action Value.”

“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.”

The report card, Testing the Waters: A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches, confirms that serious water pollution continues to be a problem at many U.S. beaches. Sewage overflows and stormwater runoff persist as the biggest known sources of contamination. According to EPA, up to 3.5 million people get sick annually from contact with raw sewage from sanitary overflows. Exposure to contaminated beach water causes waterborne illnesses in swimmers such as stomach flu; dysentery; hepatitis; respiratory ailments; rashes; pinkeye; ear, nose and throat problems; and neurological disorders.

“This means two things,” said NRDC attorney Noah Garrison. “First, people need to make sure they know what’s in the water at the beaches they visit, and to choose their beach carefully.”

To help choose your beach, here are NRDC’s 35 superstar beaches:

Alabama: Gulf Shores Public Beach in Baldwin County

Alabama: Gulf State Park Pavilion in Baldwin County

Alabama: Dauphin Island Public Beach

California: Newport Beach in Orange County (1 of 3 monitored sections) • Newport Beach—38th Street

Delaware: Dewey Beach-Swedes in Sussex County

Florida: Bowman’s Beach in Lee County

Florida: Coquina Beach South in Manatee County

Florida: Fort Desoto North Beach in Pinellas County

Georgia: Tybee Island North in Chatham County

Hawaii: Hapuna Beach St. Rec. Area in Big Island

Hawaii: Po’ipu Beach Park in Kauai

Hawaii: Wailea Beach Park in Maui

Massachusetts: Singing Beach in Essex County

Maryland: Point Lookout State Park in St Mary’s County

Maryland: Assateague State Park in Worcester County

North Carolina: Ocean Pier at Main St. and Sunset Blvd. in Brunswick County

North Carolina: Beach at Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in Dare County North Carolina: Ocean Pier at Salisbury Street in Wrightsville Beach in New Hanover North Carolina: Ocean Pier at Ocean Blvd. and Crews Ave. in Topsail Beach in Pender County

New Hampshire: Hampton Beach State Park in Rockingham County

New Hampshire: Wallis Sands Beach at Wallis Rd. in Rockingham County

New Hampshire: Wallis Sands State Park in Rockingham County

New Jersey: Washington (Margate) in Atlantic County

New Jersey: 40th St. (Avalon) in Cape May County

New Jersey: 40th St. (Sea Isle City) in Cape May County

New Jersey: Stone Harbor at 96th St. in Cape May County

New Jersey: Upper Township at Webster Rd. in Cape May County

New Jersey: Wildwood Crest at Orchid in Cape May County

New Jersey: Broadway (Pt. Pleasant Beach) in Ocean County

New York: Long Beach City in Nassau County

Virginia: Virginia Beach at 28th St. in Virginia Beach County

Virginia: Virginia Beach at 45th St. in Virginia Beach County

Virginia: Back Bay Beach in Virginia Beach County

Virginia: Virginia Beach—Little Island Beach North in Virginia Beach County

Washington: Westhaven State Park, South Jetty in Grays Harbor

The report also includes a list of 17 repeat offenders, with the Great Lakes region having the highest failure rate for water quality samples, and Ohio rating worst among the states where water samples were drawn. Sections of these beaches have persistent contamination issues, and water quality samples failed to meet health standards more than 25 percent of the time over the past five years.

Here are the 17 repeat offenders:

California: Malibu Pier, 50 yards east of the pier, in Los Angeles County

Indiana: Jeorse Park Beach in Lake County (both monitored sections):

• Lake Jeorse Park Beach I

• Lake Jeorse Park Beach II

Massachusetts: Cockle Cove Creek in Barnstable County

Maine: Goodies Beach in Knox County

New Jersey: Beachwood Beach in Ocean County

New York: Main Street Beach in Chautauqua County

New York: Wright Park—East in Chautauqua County

New York: Ontario Beach in Monroe County

Ohio: Lakeshore Park in Ashtabula County

Ohio: Arcadia Beach in Cuyahoga County

Ohio: Euclid State Park in Cuyahoga County

Ohio: Noble Beach in Cuyahoga County

Ohio: Sims Beach in Cuyahoga County

Ohio: Villa Angela State Park in Cuyahoga County

Ohio: Edson Creek in Erie County

Wisconsin: South Shore Beach in Milwaukee County