The EPA Thinks It's Cool For 1 In 28 People To Get Violently Sick From Swimming In Dirty Water


Photo: visualthinker on Flickr

The Natural Resources defence Council released its annual report on water quality at U.S. beaches and what it had to say about the Environmental Protection Agency was pretty shocking.According to the report, the standards imposed by the EPA for recreational water quality allows an “acceptable gastrointestinal illness risk of 3.6 per cent.” This essentially allows for 1 in 28 swimmers to get seriously ill, without the beach receiving any health sanctions or being closed down to protect the public.

The study also reports that in 2011 the country’s beaches reached the third highest number of closing and advisory days due to water contamination since the NRDC began tracking beaches 22 years ago.  

Contaminated water can lead to such illnesses as stomach flu, skin rashes, pinkeye, respiratory infections, meningitis, and hepatitis.

The EPA is actually in the process of creating new standards for recreational water for the first time in 25 years, but the NRDC claims that the new EPA standards due in October are “less productive.”

According to the report, “EPA is proposing new allowable bacteria levels in recreational waters that miss a critical opportunity to better protect the public from the dangers of swimming in polluted water.”

Instead, the NRDC concludes  that “sound science and good public policy” require the EPA to enact stricter standards for recreational water before the new plan is finalised.

It is estimated that every year 3.5 million people become ill after contact with raw sewage overflow.

According to the NRDC report, storm water runoff as well as sewage runoff contribute to much of recreational water pollution.

One study quoted by the NRDC reported that each year faecal matter contamination in recreational water sources in California’s Los Angeles and Orange counties contribute to up to 1,479,200 excess gastrointestinal illness cases. California has six of the worst rated and most contaminated beaches in the country according to the NRDC.

Back in May, the EPA proposed loosening regulations on muddy stormwater runoff from logging roads.  Logging roads currently need the same kind of permits as factories. 

Here’s the most brutal part of the report:

Most egregiously, the draft criteria are based on what EPA has determined is an acceptable gastrointestinal illness risk of 3.6 per cent. That is, EPA believes it is acceptable for 1 in 28 swimmers to become ill with gastroenteritis from swimming in water that just meets its proposed water quality criteria. This risk is unacceptably high and is not protective of public health. Additionally, EPA does not adequately consider the risks of other health effects such as rashes and ear, eye, and sinus infections, all of which are commonly experienced by swimmers at U.S. beaches. EPA also fails to base the draft criteria on the most recent and best available science.

Hopefully this will prevent us from swallowing too much sewage and faecal matter the next time we head to the beach.

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