In late June 2012, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released the 2012 edition of Testing the Waters: A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches, (available online at http://www.nrdc.org/water/oceans/ttw/; the Virginia state summary is online at http://www.nrdc.org/water/oceans/ttw/va.asp?loc=Virginia). The 2012 report covers conditions in 2011 at 3591 beaches or beach segments—in 30 states—at which water quality is monitored at least once a week and reported to public agencies. The report identifies beach closings, advisories, and reasons for closings by state. Nationally, the report documented 23,481 days of closings and advisories in 2011, a decrease from the 24,091 days in 2010 (the 2010 total was the second-highest in the 21 years of NRDC reports) but still higher than the 2009 total of 18,682 days (for 3,333 monitored beaches during that year). Seventeen Virginia beaches, out of 47 monitored, posted at least one closing or advisory in 2011. Collectively, the Virginia beaches posted closings or advisories on 69 days in 2011, compared to 81 days in 2010, 51 days in 2009, 29 days in 2008, 50 days in 2007, 43 days in 2006, and 42 days in 2005. Besides closings/advisories, another focus of the report is the number of beach samples that exceed state standards for bacteria. In Virginia, four percent of monitoring samples in 2011 did not meet bacterial standards, compared to six percent in 2010, three percent in 2009, two percent in 2008, and one percent in 2006 and 2007. The nationwide exceedance rate in 2011 was eight percent, the same as in 2010; the rate was seven percent from 2006-2009); five states (Delaware, New Hampshire, North Carolina, New Jersey, and Florida) had a lower (better) percentage than Virginia, and Hawaii tied the Commonwealth at four percent. At 32 Virginia beaches, all samples in 2011 met bacterial standards (0 percent exceedance rate). The Virginia beaches with the highest rates of samples exceeding bacteria standards were Fairview Beach in King George County (33 percent), Hilton Beach in Newport News (30 percent), Huntington Beach in Newport News (25 percent), Anderson’s Beach in Newport News (20 percent), and King/Lincoln Park in Newport News (11 percent). A notable improvement was Festival Beach in Mathews County at 0 percent in 2011 compared to 38 percent in 2010. For a news account of the report, see Va., N.C. beaches among the best for water quality, Virginian-Pilot, 6/28/12.
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