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The Bush Administration Makes Me Sick
Polluted beaches putting your health at risk
By Jerri Ann Lewis

Are America's beaches safe? Or is the pollution that saturates our beaches and the surrounding waters putting our health at risk? Whether you like to swim, surf, or just lie around in the sun at a public beach, this will be an American pastime that may soon vanish due to the environmental policies of the Bush Administration. The high-levels of pollution that cause beach closings are not the only thing that may turn your stomach. The actions (or lack of action) by the Bush Administration should make you ill too.

Stormwater, dirty runoff, and sewage spills and overflow are the most repeatedly recognized sources of pollution that contaminate beaches. In 2003, stormwater and dirty runoff caused more than 2600 days of closings and advisory warnings and sewage spills and overflows accounted for over 1800 closings and advisory days.1 Eighty-eight percent of the closings or advisories in 2003 were due to high levels of bacteria caused by the presence of human or animal waste.2

Nancy Stoner, director of the NRDC's Clean Water Project states, "We know that the high bacteria levels that cause most closings and advisories come from two sources - inadequately treated sewage and contaminated stormwater. We have a major water system breakdown across the country, and local, state and federal authorities need to wake up and fix it."2

The average age of the components on sewage collection systems is approximately 33 years. Since some pipes that are still being used are nearly 200 years old, upgrades to many of our nation's sewage systems would help the problem. However, the sewage treatment plant upgrades are costly and the Bush Administration proposes a $500 million cut in federal grants for upgrades. They also propose changes to the policies that regulate sewage treatment discharges. This would enable more sewage treatment plants to discharge wastewater that has not been through secondary treatment units.3

However, some sources of pollution are still unknown. Many municipalities fail to identify and control many of the sources that contribute to beach water pollution. More funding could also help identify those unknown sources.2

The health issues related to all of these contamination problems are the real concerns. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention names swimming in polluted water to be the most frequent cause of waterborne illnesses. Illnesses from bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other pollutants may cause such symptoms as fever, chills, ear discharge, respiratory problems and nausea. Monitoring and testing the beaches regularly can prevent some of the health risks.1 The EPA defends the current regulations by noting that waste must meet discharge standards; however, the standards do not include testing for parasites and viruses. It leaves many wondering if it violates the Clean Water Act. "Inadequately treated sewage can cause vomiting and diarrhea for healthy people, but can be life threatening for young children and the elderly," said Stoner. "The EPA's policy is irresponsible."2

Is the Bush Administration making us sick with their disregard for the health of Americans? This is just one more environmental concern that causes adverse health effects for countless Americans. Nevertheless, it is also just one more environmental concern that the Bush Administration continues to ignore. America needs a president that makes our health a priority. George W. Bush is not that president.

1 Natural Resource Defense Council: Beach Pollution.
2 J.R. Pegg, "Polluted U.S. Beaches Closing in Record Numbers," August 6, 2004.
3 "Administration Proposes to Allow Release of Partially Treated Sewage on Rainy Days," BushGreenWatch. October 4, 2004.

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