Texas Beaches: Cleaner or Dirtier?

July 31st, 2008

How dirty are Texas beaches?

This week, the Natural Resources Defense Council released a nationwide report rating beach conditions (as reported in the Dallas Morning News). Two beaches in Texas got a gold star! Great news, right? Think again: Officials earned the gold stars for Stewart Beach in Galveston and McGee Beach in Corpus Christi for promptly reporting pollution problems, not for being clean.

And our beaches were tested for fecal bacteria (which were found) but not for carcinogens and toxic industrial pollutants (which they didn’t look for). From the DMN article:

Ellis Pickett, a Texas leader of the Surfrider Foundation, a national conservationist group, said he’s especially worried about what most states, including Texas, don’t test for — carcinogens and toxins in water at the beach.

The state General Land Office tests at 167 beach sites for the bacterium Enterococcus, which indicates fecal contamination and is usually caused by stormwater runoff.

However, Mr. Pickett said, the sampling yields no information about possible pollutants “that will give you cancer or destroy an internal organ or cause birth defects.”

Six Texas beaches — instead of a gold star, let’s give ’em a brown star — exceeded federal Enterococcus standards 25% of the time or more, according to the report.
Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson reported selective statistics contradicting the NRDC report – “Texas beaches are a great place to be” – saying that closed-beach advisories the summer of 2007 were fewer than summer 2006.

How, the prospective-beach-going public might ponder, can folks express the true Texas value that our beaches should be protected and healthy for human and animal life? One way is to help the Texas League of Conservation Voters elect a pro-conservation majority to the Texas House and Senate on Tuesday, November 4th.

Thanks to our friends over at Environment Texas for jumping on this issue and running with it.