Mass. Has Record Number of Beach Closures

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Massachusetts has had a record number of beach closures so far this season, mainly due to high bacteria levels caused by heavy rainfall.

Beaches are closed when water quality tests show unsafe bacterial contamination. And high bacteria counts have been common recently because of the steady rains, which can cause sewer overflows and overwhelm sewage treatment facilities.

So far this year, there have been 188 closures of the state's roughly 1,100 bathing beaches. Suzanne Condon of the state Department of Public Health says the shut-downs do more than just inconvenience swimmers.

"The downsides of having to close them are tremendous in terms of economic indictors," Condon said. "I think we're seeing that on Cape Cod. People aren't going to the beach, and therefore they're not buying things to eat, they're not going to stores."

Condon says the upside of the closures is that people aren't put at risk for sicknesses such as gastrointestinal illnesses and ear and eye infections.

This program aired on July 8, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

Sacha Pfeiffer Twitter Host, All Things Considered
Sacha Pfeiffer was formerly the host of WBUR's All Things Considered.