Festival Beach had most frequent high bacteria levels in the state in 2010

by Sherry Hamilton - Posted on Jul 13, 2011 - 04:58 PM

Photo: Festival Beach in Mathews was found to have the highest percent of exceedance rates for bacteria in 2010 of all of Virginia’s coastal beaches. Photo by Sherry Hamilton.

Festival Beach in Mathews was found to have the highest percent of exceedance rates for bacteria in 2010 of all of Virginia’s coastal beaches. Photo by Sherry Hamilton.

Festival Beach in Mathews County was recently listed by the Natural Resources Defense Council as having the highest percentage of exceedance rates for bacteria in 2010 of all of Virginia’s coastal beaches.

The Diggs beach exceeded the maximum daily bacterial standards for enterococcus in 38 percent of the samples taken last year, according to the council’s "Testing the Waters" report. The second- and third-highest exceedance rates were found in Newport News, at Hilton Beach and King/Lincoln Park. There were no exceedances listed for Gloucester. The list was developed based on weekly samples taken of water quality during the summer at 48 beaches around the state.

According to the report, polluted urban and suburban runoff is a major threat to water quality at beaches nationwide, carrying pollution from parking lots, yards, and streets directly to waterways. In some areas, stormwater runoff "routinely causes overflows from septic systems," says the report.

But David Fridley, environmental health manager for the Three Rivers Health District, said that doesn’t seem to be the case at Festival Beach. The beach is "looking right out onto the bay and is pretty much an isolated location," he said. "It’s difficult to see any pollution sources. It’s just a mystery to us."