NEW ORLEANS (AP) — An environmental group's annual look at water quality at the nation's vacation beaches rates Louisiana's among the most contaminated.
The report by the Natural Resources Defense Council says 29 percent of water samples taken at Louisiana beaches showed elevated bacterial levels.
The national average is 8 percent.
An analysis of the report by The Times-Picayune (http://bit.ly/Ok1i3C) shows high bacteria levels were found in 44 percent of water samples collected at five Cameron Parish beaches.
Grand Isle beaches fared much better, with elevated bacteria counts found in 9 percent of nearly 250 samples.
Testing results at some favorite getaways for New Orleans area residents showed an 8 percent contamination rate in Bay St. Louis, Miss., and no bad samples at Dauphin Island or Gulf Shores in Alabama or in Pensacola, Fla.
Cameron Parish was listed among the 15 worst "repeat offenders" for persistent contamination problems from storm water runoff and sewage pollution, the report said.
The national study was based on beach water testing at 3,000 locations for bacteria found in human or animal waste.
The report urges the federal Environmental Protection Agency to impose stricter water quality standards this fall when it revises criteria that have been in place since 1986.
"If people were swimming in water that meets their proposed standards, approximately 1 in 28 risk getting sick," said Jon Devine, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council. "We think that is too much of a risk. EPA needs to go back and come up with a stronger standard that protects more people when they go to the beach and consider other health effects."
The number of days beaches were closed or were subject to water-quality advisories was the third highest since the environmental group began issuing annual reports 22 years ago. The second highest total of beach closures and warnings occurred in 2010, the report said. That was the year of the BP oil spill.
Devine said the most common ailments are gastrointestinal illnesses, including nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.
"Testing the Waters: A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches" and a searchable database of testing results can be viewed at:
Information from: The Times-Picayune, http://www.nola.com