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Number of closed beaches jumps

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Pollution in the water forced a dramatic hike in the number of beach closures in the United States last year, according to a study released Wednesday by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Beach closings and advisories were up by 83 percent in 2000 over the year before, the council's annual beach water quality study revealed. The NRDC report attributes the rise to increased rainfall in many areas, including the Northeast, as well as more regular monitoring of water quality at beaches.

The report, the NRDC said, shows that serious water pollution, largely caused by sewage and storm drain discharges, is persistent at U.S. beaches.

The vast majority of closings, 85 percent, came after tests showed fecal contamination at beaches.

The most common illness beachgoers suffer from swimming in polluted waters is gastroenteritis, which can cause dehydration and vomiting.

The study named cited eight strands -- all in Connecticut and Massachusetts -- as "beach buddies" for their water monitoring practices. Brewster Beach, Good Harbor Creek Beach, Niles Beach and Pavillion Beach in Massachusetts, and East Haven Town Beach, Hammonasset Beach State Park, Town Beach in Old Saybrook and Waterford Town Beach in Connecticut test waters weekly and put out advisories and closures in a timely manner, the survey noted.

Oregon and Louisiana are "beach bums" because they have no regular monitoring or public notification program, the report said.

While increased monitoring at beaches has led to more closures and warnings, NRDC points out in the report that there is still no uniform testing of beaches across the country. However, a law, enacted by Congress last year, requires states to adopt standards for monitoring beaches by 2004.

• Natural Resources Defense Council

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