Just in time for Memorial Day weekend, Oceana is offering its Beach Alert Service to help vacationers find out if their favorite beaches have been closed due to water pollution. By visiting Oceana.org, citizens can check their local beaches and sign up, free of charge, to be immediately notified if their beach of choice has a health advisory or is closed due to excessive pollution.
In conjunction with state and local health and environmental agencies, Oceana and Earth 911 have established the national Beach Closure Alert Service which compiles the most recent data on beach water quality and provides one-stop-shopping for beachgoers. The web service presents the results of official government water tests in colorful, easy to read maps that link to descriptions of beach water quality. Citizens and journalists can also sign up to automatically receive emails when their local beaches are closed.
“People have a right to know whether the beaches where they vacation are safe for swimming,” said Jackie Savitz, Oceana’s Pollution Program Director. “Nothing spoils a summer day more than visiting your favorite beach and finding out it’s been closed due to excessive pollution. Now people can know before they go.”
Beach water quality is threatened by bacteria, viruses and toxic chemicals that come from runoff, overflowing sewers, and cruise ships. In 2002 more than 12,000 closings and advisories were recorded, the second highest number in 13 years. Complete data for 2003 are not yet available, but New Jersey registered 80 closings last summer, the most since 1988, and beaches were closed 1,079 times in Florida, a 220% jump from the 335 closings in 2002. Exposure to waterborne pathogens can cause nausea, diarrhea, chills and fever. Skin rashes, respiratory effects, and diseases that affect the eyes and ears may also occur.
The Beach Alert Service also offers helpful facts on ocean pollution and community-specific resources to help reduce the impacts of runoff.
The Service was created by Oceana and Earth 911 following passage of the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (B.E.A.C.H.) Act of 2000. The BEACH Act requires local health and environmental officials to test beach water and notify the public of water quality sampling results and health determinations. Through this service, Oceana provides immediate notification for swimmers about beachwater in their communities and in their vacation spots.
Anyone interested in learning more about Oceana or the Alert Service should call Oceana headquarters toll-free at 1-877-7-OCEANA, or visit the website at www.oceana.org.