Stormwater runoff is polluting U.S. beaches and sickening 3.5 million people each year, according to an annual report from the Natural Resources Defense Council released Wednesday. With more than 10 million gallons of untreated storm water entering surface water each year, the country's beaches are plagued with bacteria-laden human and animal waste. In a survey of some 3,000 beaches, the NRDC found 15 that repeatedly had higher than acceptable bacteria levels. Louisiana was found to have the poorest beach water quality, while New Hampshire and Delaware had some of the cleanest. While a slight improvement over 2010, the number of beaches closed and water quality advisories posted in 2011 was the third highest in the 22 years of monitoring. Swimming in polluted water can cause a variety of ailments from skin rashes to dysentery, hepatitis and even neurological disorders. The NRDC is calling for tougher standards on beach water quality and for new efforts to end runoff pollution.
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