How Clean is Your Beach?

By Cat Lazaroff

WASHINGTON, DC, May 18, 2001 (ENS) - As the country prepares to kick off beach season this coming Memorial Day weekend, the Clean Beaches Council today released its official list of beaches which have been certified for public safety and environmental quality. As in past years, the list includes both resort beaches and rural or undeveloped beaches, and highlights the benefits of protecting coastlines as public lands.

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Sand castle on Lake Michigan beach. Five Lake Michigan beaches - all within the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore - made this year's Clean Beaches list (Photo courtesy Michigan Travel Bureau)
This year, beaches in California, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Texas, the Great Lake states of Michigan and Wisconsin, and the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Virginia and Delaware make the grade.

The Clean Beaches Council runs the only national non-profit environmental and public safety beach certification program in the country. Called the Blue Wave Campaign, the program helps the public identify clean and safe beaches when planning vacations while also promoting sustainable management practices to protect beach environments.

"Over 50 million people visit beaches every summer, making them America's top tourist destination, accounting for 85 percent of all tourist revenues and generating $640 billion a year for the U.S. economy. Although many beaches are plagued by pollution, many do not regularly monitor water quality, and most do not have routine procedures in place for notifying the public when beach waters are unsafe for swimming," said Bob Frederick, chair of the Clean Beaches Council. "Our Blue Wave Campaign is the only program of its kind which helps families and tourists identify beaches that don't pose a serious health or safety risk."

Blue Wave certified beaches must meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency criteria for water quality, including regular testing and public notification of unsafe bacteria conditions or other problems. Certified beaches must also promote habitat conservation, protect wildlife, manage erosion and preserve sand dunes and beach vegetation.

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Millions of Americans visit the nation's beaches each year (Photo courtesy U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)
Now in its third year, the Blue Wave Campaign has doubled in size since last year, and the beaches on the list this year are all over the country: from New England and the Great Lakes to Texas and California.

"Public demand for information about the cleanliness and environmental management of beaches is clearly on the rise and beach communities across the country are responding by 'Seeking the Wave'," said Walter McLeod, president of the Clean Beaches Council. "For the public, the Blue Wave is a 'good housekeeping' stamp of approval, indicating a clean and safe destination offering visitors not only an enjoyable vacation but peace of mind. For beach communities, it is an 'eco-label' which means the beach has met a set of rigorous health and safety standards and is managed to protect the natural environment."

The Blue Wave Campaign is patterned after popular and well established European initiatives to identify clean and safe beaches. In 2000, the Tidy Britain Group presented 308 "Seaside Awards" to United Kingdom beaches. The group will announce its list for the 2001 summer season on June 5th (for more information, visit: http://www.seasideawards.org.uk).

The Clean Beaches Council has certified Blue Wave beaches in a dozen states in time for the opening of this summer beach season.

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Three beaches on the Apostle Island National Lakeshore, on Lake Superior's south shore in Wisconsin, made this year's list (Photo by Dave Hansen, courtesy Minnesota Extension Service)
Florida, which boasts a longer coastline than any other state, also leads the nation with 29 beaches certified as clean and safe. The state's Blue Wave beaches include a number of resort beaches with developed facilities, as well as more primitive state and federal beaches.

Delaware, with only a fraction of Florida's shoreline but a strong program for ensuring that waterfront areas are maintained, came in second with six certified beaches.

Massachusetts and Michigan are tied for third, with five certified beaches each - all on federal lands. All of Massachusetts' Blue Wave beaches are within the Cape Cod National Seashore, while the Michigan Blue Wave beaches all fall within the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

The four fourth place states also benefit from federal protection of their coastlines. California has three Blue Wave beaches, all within the Point Reyes National Seashore. New Jersey's three certified beaches are along the Sandy Hook National Seashore; North Carolina's three certified beaches are in the Cape Lookout National Seashore; and Wisconsin's three are along the Apostle Island National Lakeshore.

New York has two certified beaches, both within the Fire Island National Seashore. Maryland and Virginia share the benefits of the Assateague Island National Seashore, which holds the only certified beaches for both states. Texas also has just one certified beach, Rockport Beach.

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Beaches at Assateague Island National Seashore helped both Maryland and Virginia make the Clean Beaches list (Photo courtesy National Park Service)
The Clean Beaches Council works with state and local environmental and health authorities to verify application data from both resort and rural beaches for the Blue Wave Campaign. The Campaign is a public-private partnership supported in part by contributions from AT&T, Coastal Living Magazine, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, and the National Park Service.

Other partners of the Blue Wave Campaign are the United Nations Environment Program, the Scientific Environment and Research Foundation, the National Wildlife Refuge Association, the Wildlife Habitat Council, the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable, the Global Environment and Technology Foundation, and the American Recreation Coalition.

More information is available at: http://www.cleanbeaches.org/