At Because Water, we think every weekend in the summer should be spent with good company at the beach. Massachusetts beaches provide a wonderful change of scenery from city life, and we need to make sure they remain safe and clean. We have previously discussed how to protect New England’s beaches, but it is equally important to protect yourself while at the beach. Bacteria from sewage runoff can make beaches unsafe for humans, and we took a look at how this issue affects Massachusetts beaches.
The Massachusetts Bureau of Environmental Health conducts water quality checks for beaches nationwide and updates their findings on their website. Recently, beaches in Quincy and Hingham were temporarily closed due to a high concentration of bacteria in the water.
The Bureau of Environmental Health tests for a number of bacteria, mainly the enterococcus family. The enterococcus bacteria is found in feces, and the majority of bacteria in ocean water comes from sewage runoffs and malfunctioning septic tanks. Massachusetts has also recently extended a “No Discharge” program, which prevents boats from releasing treated and untreated sewage close to shore. Measures like this not only serve to protect our oceans, but also the health of humans who rely on the ocean as a resource.
The National Resources Defense Council tests the quality of ocean water in every state in America, and ranks Massachusetts beach water as the 12th cleanest out of 30 states. They also offer an interactive map where you can check the monitoring levels of your local beach. National water pollution standards certify beach water as “safe” if it meets the requirement that only 1/28 people exposed become sick.
The best ways to avoid increased bacteria levels are:
- Don’t swim for 24 hours after the rain
- Use the bathroom before going swimming
- Check for your beach reports for Red Tide and bacteria.
- Swim when the tide is coming in
- Don’t swim in big crowds
- Stay in designated swimming areas
Bacteria levels fluctuate daily and hourly, which is why it is so important that we continue to assure the safety of ocean water in Massachusetts. Excess bacteria in ocean water is a problem caused by human negligence and with effort and environmental legislation we can ensure our water is safe. The majority of beaches in Massachusetts are clean and safe and with effort we can maintain that these beaches continue to thrive. Find how clean your local beach is and join in a beach cleanup this summer!
- Taking Care of New England’s Beaches (becausewater.wordpress.com)