Thousands of beaches across the United States pose safety risks due to high levels of fecal contamination.
According to a new study published by Environment America Research and Policy Center, approximately half of the country's beaches are contaminated with sewage and feces traces.
The group of researchers found that 1,761 out of 3,192 tested beaches nationwide in 2022 experienced at least one day in which fecal contamination exceeded the EPA's Beach Action Value, which the organization defines as a "precautionary tool states can use to make beach notification decisions."
Even worse, 363 beaches—which amounts to roughly one out of every nine that Environment America tested last year—had unsafe levels of fecal contamination on 25 percent of the days on which the beaches were tested.
The EPA concluded that the South and Gulf Coast are home to the country's most contaminated beaches, with the West Coast and Great Lakes ranking as America's second and third most-polluted waters. Meanwhile, the state with the worst beach conditions is Oregon, which saw six locations hitting unsafe levels of contamination 75 percent of the time the EPA ran its tests.
Environment America notes that most of the pollution is in the form of feces from sewers and private septic tanks, in addition to animal waste for beaches in close proximity to industrial farms.