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In South Florida, where the Everglades meet the bays, environmental challenges abound. Sea level rise threatens homes and real estate. Invasive species imperil native plants and animals. Pesticides reduce the risk of mosquito-borne diseases, but at what cost? WLRN's award-winning environment reporting strives to capture the color and complexity of human interaction with one of the most biodiverse areas of the planet.

Report Shows Pollution At Majority Of Florida's Beaches Puts Swimmers At Risk

Environment Florida Research and Policy Center compiled data from the state and found that last year, 187 of 261 beaches tested had enough pollution to put swimmers at risk of getting sick on at least one day during the year.

Click here to view the full report. 

Jenna Stevens, state director, said researchers looked for fecal indicator bacteria in the water. She said this most commonly gets there through sewage spills and other forms of runoff.

"What we're seeing from this data is that there are a lot of things that we can do to help clean up the state of our beaches and our overall water quality," she said. "And one of the things that is pretty evident is that some of our sewage plants are just badly in need of repair."

unsafe_beaches_graph_environment_fl.jpg
Credit Environment Florida

Stevens said Florida has a resource, the  Clean Water State Revolving Fund, to invest in repairing those aging and failing water treatment facility systems.

"Making our beaches safe for swimming was a major goal of our nation that we set in passing with Clean Water Act in 1972," she said. "And while our report shows that unfortunately, all too often our beaches are plagued with pollution, there's some really easy solutions."

There are techniques to mirror nature's ability to absorb heavy rains, Stevens said, such as rain barrels, rooftop gardens, permeable pavement, expanding green space and restoring wetlands.

Also, Congress recently passed a budget for the Environmental Protection Agency that included funding for emergency water infrastructure.

Stevens hopes the Senate will back that up.

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