What does it mean when a beach is closed due to water quality?

By Jillian MacMath, AccuWeather staff writer

It’s not unusual for beaches to be put under advisory or closed for a number of reasons during the summer months.

Sometimes, however, this occurs due to water quality issues which make the water unsafe for swimmers.

Though a closed beach can put a real damper on your vacation, it’s often done as a result of unsafe levels of enterococci and E. coli, otherwise known as fecal bacteria.

summer beach

Clear skies are seen in Manhattan Beach, California. (AP Photo/John Antczak)

In mid-June, one-third of New Jersey’s beaches were at risk of closing due to unsafe levels of human and animal fecal bacteria in the water.

In the whole of 2017, the state faced 28 closures due to elevated levels.

This bacteria can fluctuate in the ocean due to sewage discharges, failing septic systems, storm water runoff and pet and agricultural waste among other factors.

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While it is definitely enough to turn your stomach, is it significant enough to cause harm?

According to the New York State Department of Health, “If the reason [for a beach being closed or under advisory] is water quality related, it means that the results of water samples or other information, such as rainfall or algae, indicate that there is likely an increased risk of contracting illness through swimming.”

They added, “Water pollution caused by fecal contamination is a public health concern due to the risk of swallowing or coming in contact with disease causing microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses and protozoa.”

According to the Department of Environmental Protection, contact with polluted water can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, sore throat, cough, runny nose, sneezing, eye and ear symptoms, skin rash and flu-like symptoms such as fever and chills.

Some locations are more susceptible to this type of contamination than others.

Typically, the more susceptible a beach is to pollution, the more frequently it is monitored.

You can check the latest water quality report at your beach by visiting the Environmental Protection Agency website.

For more safety and preparedness tips, visit AccuWeather.com/Ready.

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