Ohio beaches flunked water quality tests last year more often than any of the other 30 states with ocean or lakefront coats, according to a report issued Wednesday. Thirty-five percent of the water quality tests taken from Ohio's 60 monitored beaches in 2013 exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's swimming safety threshold for bacteria, the Natural Resources Defense Council report said. By comparison, only 13% of test samples from all the beaches in the Great Lakes region exceeded the U.S. EPA's Beach Action Value, the group said. Nationally, 10% of all water quality samples collected from nearly 3,500 coastal and Great Lakes beaches in the country failed to meet the standard. TheNRDC report(http://www.nrdc.org/water/oceans/ttw/oh.asp) also found a significant increase in the percent of water quality samples from Ohio beaches exceeding pollution standards of 190 E. coli bacteria cfu per 100 ml of water. Although the U.S. EPA adopted a more restrictive threshold last year, 32% of the 2103 samples were still in excess of the previous 235 cfu/100 ml standard. In 2012, 20% exceeded that level, 22% in both 2011 and 2010, and 15% in 2009.
Ohio beaches with the worst water quality test failure rates in 2013 were: Lakeview Beach in Lorain County (76%); Bay View West in Erie County (70%); Whites Landing in Erie County (62%); Edgecliff Beach in Cuyahoga County (62%); Clarkwood Beach in Cuyahoga County (61%); and Sims Beach in Cuyahoga County (61%).
Steve Fleischli, director of water program at NRDC, said the primary source of beach water pollution is storm water runoff, which often contains raw sewage. "There can be hidden dangers lurking in many of our waterways, in the form of bacteria, and viruses that can cause a grim inventory of illnesses, like dysentery, hepatitis, stomach flu, infections and rashes," he said during a conference call with reporters. Children and the elderly are more susceptible to diseases spread through polluted beach water, he said. "Too many of America's beaches remain sick and they can pass on their illnesses to our families." The U.S. EPA estimates that more than 10 trillion gallons of untreated storm water enter the country's surface water each year, including hundreds of billions of gallons of wastewater that gets released through combined sewer overflows, Mr. Fleischli said.
Ohio beaches' poor water quality is likely because Lake Erie is the shallowest of the Great Lakes, which as a closed system doesn't flush out pollutants as quickly as the oceanfront coasts, he said. Moreover, Ohio has a high density population and a lot of developed areas that still use antiquated sewage systems that create a lot of "urban slobber," he said.
The NRDC's Karen Hobbs said the increase in Ohio's failing water quality tests could be attributed partially to more extreme precipitation events that stem from climate change. Furthermore, Ohio has lost 90% of its wetlands, which help filter out pollutants before they run into waterways, she said. The NRDC report said a new federal rule designed to protect streams and wetlands could help stem the flow of wastewater that pollutes beaches. The group also called on local communities to adopt "green infrastructure," things like green roofs, rain barrels, porous pavement that help divert storm water runoff before it enters the sewer system.