Bristol County Beaches Cleanest in Massachusetts
SouthCoast beaches are the cleanest in the state this year, according to a new report from the Environment Massachusetts Research and Policy Center.
The center's 2021 Safe for Swimming report shows the results of testing 556 beaches in the state for fecal bacteria like E. coli.
It revealed Bristol County has the lowest average percentage of days with potentially unsafe water of all eight seaside Massachusetts counties.
Bristol County beaches were deemed potentially unsafe just 2% of the time on average, according to the center's data.
This represents half the average of the next-best Dukes County, covering Martha's Vineyard and the Elizabeth Islands.
Meanwhile, at the top of the list, Norfolk County beaches were deemed potentially unsafe an average of 12% of the time.
“We’ve come a long way in cleaning up bacteria pollution from sewage and stormwater runoff all across Buzzards Bay," noted Mark Rasmussen, president of the Buzzards Bay Coalition, which works to restore clean water in the area.
Rasmussen went on to state that millions of dollars in sewage infrastructure upgrades in New Bedford have dramatically improved the water quality and given residents "great, clean beaches."
"We still have a lot of work ahead to clean up other forms of pollution to our waters, particularly nitrogen, but this report should be celebrated for the milestone it represents," he added. "When our communities invest in clean water, the Bay bounces back, and all of us get to enjoy the benefits.”
Getting deeper into the data, Bristol County had twice as many beaches tested as Norfolk County (44 beaches compared to 22), although the study notes that not all beaches were tested at the same frequency and that county-to-county data may therefore not be directly comparable.
Plymouth County — which has beaches on both the SouthCoast and the South Shore — was deemed potentially unsafe for swimming an average of 6% of the time, with 83 beaches tested.
No Plymouth or Bristol County beaches were listed in the ten Massachusetts beaches deemed the least safe for swimming.
The worst offender, King's Beach in Essex County, had potentially unsafe levels of bacteria 64 days out of 85 days tested, or 75% of the time — more than twice the number of unsafe days as the next worst beach, Suffolk County's Tenean Beach.
But King's Beach is also the only beach in the list with more than one testing site, which the study authors note could skew the results.