Mississippi beaches ranked on water quality

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Mississippi beaches scored in the lower third of a national survey that rates water quality along America's beaches. The state ranked 20th out of 30 states included in the annual report by the National Resources Defense Council.

According to that survey, New Hampshire beaches have the cleanest water, while Louisiana's ranked last.

Families enjoy the cooling waters of the Mississippi Sound on a hot late summer morning. Elizabeth Rooke gives the beaches high marks and says water quality is critical.

"It's one of the most important things, since I have a son who is 17 months old. We like to put him in the water and we want to make sure everything is clean. Help keep him healthy," said the Petal resident.

The Department of Environmental Quality regularly tests these waters and posts the results online, along with any beach closures. That testing program was a plus in the annual report.

Sharon Fant of Starkville says the water is fine, even though it's a darker color than popular beaches in the Florida panhandle.

"Well, it's not crystal blue, like some people want. But the water is great. It feels great. We've had a great time," said Fant.

"It's real nice. Real nice.  Yesterday it was kind of cool, but real nice today," said Melanie Clifton.

She was happy to hear the bacteria level in these waters is tested frequently.

"Oh yeah, cause I have a grand baby. And I wouldn't want to put her in it if they didn't."

If you go swimming at the beach this summer, it's best to keep your distance from storm water drain pipes. It isn't a sewer pipe, but still storm water runoff carries bacteria and chemicals from things like lawn fertilizer, animal waste and oil from roadways.

"Studies demonstrate that swimming near or in front of flowing storm drains significantly increases risk because those drains tend to discharge the bacteria that trigger exceeding national standards," said David Beckman with the NRDC.

One more tip to reduce the risk of illness: Avoid swimming after a heavy rain. Rain causes the highest level of storm water runoff and potential bacteria problems.

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