Vacation season has arrived in Washington. We can tell because the daily commuter traffic's a breeze and we can get reservations at our favorite restaurants on Saturday nights before 11 p.m.
This is a sign you don't want to see on your vacation.
But if you want to go to the beach and haven't made plans yet, you might want to check out the Natural Resources Defense Council's 20th annual beach report first. Or you might find your vacation paradise ruined by dirty water.
According to the report, Minnesota, New Hampshire and California have some of the cleanest beaches around, in terms of water quality and state monitoring programs, while some parts of Florida, Maine and Mississippi have among the worst.
And, despite the First Family's much-publicized pending visit to the Gulf Coast region, and a certain governor's admonitions that the water's fine, a lot of it is not. (Here's the list of what's closed in the region.)
Compared to all of last year's Gulf beach closings and advisories, the Gulf oil spill has caused nearly 10 times as many closings and advisories at those beaches so far this year. There's been 2,239 beach closings, advisories and notices in the region due to the oil spill, the report says.
"From stomach-turning pathogens to dangerous oil slicks — America's beaches continue to suffer from pollution that can make people sick, harm marine life and destroy coastal economies," said NRDC Water Program Director David Beckman.
How bad can it be? A swimmer exposed to beach water pollution is at risk for stomach flu, skin rashes, pinkeye, dysentery, hepatitis, and neurological disorders, to name a few. Incidents have been growing steadily over the past few decades, and will likely continue, the report says.
The number one known pollutant in 2009 was storm water runoff, the report says, and the amount of polluted U.S. beach waters has remained steady over the last two years at about 7 percent.
NRDC suggests greening the infrastructure, conserving water, and improving testing can help clean up the water.