Area beach-goers planning to hit the waves this Fourth of July weekend can rest easy in one respect. Three Cape Fear-area beaches have fetched high marks on this year’s report card from the Natural Resources Defense Council, or NRDC—an environmental watchdog group that grades beaches based on water quality. Out of 3500 coastal and Great Lakes beaches, only 35 were deemed “superstars”—and this elite grouping counts sections of Wrightsville Beach, Sunset Beach, and Topsail Beach.
Top grades carry more meaning for beaches than they used to. Because the EPA adopted a new, more stringent metric in 2013, this year’s NRDC report evidenced an uptick in beaches with dangerous amounts of bacteria in their waters. Steve Fleischli, the NRDC’s water program director, says the organization is using the new benchmark to better protect beach-goers against the cumulative effects of pollution within wetlands and tributary, or inland, streams—all of which eventually affects beaches.
"Because polluted runoff is the biggest known source of beach water pollution, EPA and community leaders at all levels should embrace and fast-track green infrastructure solutions like green roofs, rain barrels and porous pavement."
Fleischli explains that wetlands are critical pollution filters, and that action to prevent storm water and sewage from reaching waterways ultimately protects beach recreationists from diseases including hepatitis, dysentery and stomach flu. He adds that the EPA is currently accepting public comments on its Clean Water Protection rule, an initiative that would heighten pollution control safeguards to a host of streams, wetlands and other waters.
***For more information about submitting comments regarding the Clean Water Protection rule, visit the NRDC's website.