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State beaches comparatively clean
Georgia ranked 9th out of 30 in the U.S. for health advisories issued to beach states in 2011, according to a report by the National Resources Defense Council.

The findings are based on analyses of the amount of time beaches nationwide spent under advisories and failed to meet state standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The agency sets standards for beach water quality to monitor the risk of contracting gastrointestinal illnesses from pollution and waste.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the Coastal Health District monitor state beaches.

Two of Glynn County's beaches, both on Jekyll Island, have the second-highest rate in the state for exceeding state standards for bacteria levels. Jekyll's Clam Creek beach exceeded acceptable bacteria levels by 23 percent in 2011 and the St. Andrews Picnic Area failed at a rate of 19 percent during the same time period.

Although two Jekyll Island beaches spend more time than others in the county under advisory, it is not the fault of human action. Clam Creek and the St. Andrews Picnic Area beaches are on the marshland side of Jekyll Island where nesting birds account for bacteria in the water, according to Elizabeth Cheney, beach water quality program manager for the Coastal Resources Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

Beaches on Jekyll's shore side see fewer elevated bacteria levels because of wave and tidal action, which keeps ocean-side areas flushed, Cheney said.

McIntosh County beaches ranked highest for not meeting state standards during the same time period, according to the report.

Beaches in McIntosh County are monitored monthly. Less testing means advisories may remain in effect longer, Cheney said.

Glynn County's beaches are monitored daily or weekly.

Overall, Cheney says Georgia's beaches are doing well.

"We're 9th among 30 beach states, so I think we're in pretty good shape," Cheney said.

Jekyll isn't alone in seeing advisories issued for its beaches. On St. Simons Island, Goulds Inlet exceeded acceptable bacteria levels at a rate of 4 percent in 2011 and the beach at the St. Simons Island lighthouse exceeded standards at a rate of 9 percent.

The Blythe Island Regional Park sandbar in the Turtle River, monitored monthly, exceeded standards at a 13 percent rate.

In 2011, 5 percent of all reported beach monitoring samples exceeded the state's daily maximum bacterial standard in Glynn County.

Chatham County ranked third for exceeding state standards.

No beaches in Camden or Liberty counties were monitored.



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