Two NH beaches are ranked among top nationwide
The 22nd annual beach water quality report released Wednesday by the Natural Resources Defense Council gave high marks to Hampton Beach State Park and Wallis Sands State Beach in Rye.
More than 3,000 beaches were evaluated last year as part of the study, with 200 popular beaches given ratings based on water quality, monitoring frequency, and public notification of contamination; only 12 received 5-star ratings.
Amy Bassett, spokesman for the state Division of Parks and Recreation, said she wasn't surprised by the latest ratings for the two beaches.
“Hampton Beach and Wallis Sands have been on that list for several years,” she said.
Overall, New Hampshire ranked No. 2 in beach water quality out of 30 states, according to the report by the international nonprofit environmental organization.
The number of days when New Hampshire beaches were closed or advisories issued dropped from 16 in 2010 to nine in 2011, the report said.
In addition, only 1 percent of all reported beach monitoring samples in New Hampshire exceeded the state's daily maximum bacterial standard in 2011, the report found. They were North Hampton State Beach (8 percent of samples exceeded standards), Seabrook Harbor Beach (4 percent), North Beach in Hampton (2 percent), Foss Beach in Rye (2 percent), Seabrook Town Beach (1percent), and Hampton Beach State Park (1 percent).
The 5-star rating is good for New Hampshire's beach business, according to B.J. “Doc” Noel, president of the Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce.
“It obviously adds another dimension to the quality of the area,” he said. “In today's environment, with respect to health issues, families feel comfortable and they feel safe in the water.”
The picture wasn't so rosy at other beaches across the country. The report said that last year the nation's beaches saw the third-highest number of closing and advisory days issued in 22 years, raising concerns about stormwater runoff, sewage pollution and other contaminants from humans and animal waste that can make swimmers ill.
While the two New Hampshire beaches were at the top, the report also listed the Top 15 “Repeat Offenders” — beaches with consistently poor quality. Several of those beaches were in California and Louisiana.
For the first time this year, the Natural Resources Defense Council's report includes a ZIP code searchable map of the more than 3,000 beaches nationwide to make it easier to check water quality, monitoring, closing and swimming advisory information at their local beaches. The information can be found at www.nrdc.org/beaches.
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Jason Schreiber may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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