Report | PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center

Safe for Swimming 2021 Edition

The Clean Water Act, adopted in 1972, set the goal of making all of our waterways safe for  swimming. Nearly a half-century later, Amer icans visiting their favorite beach are still met all too  often by advisories warning that the water is unsafe for  swimming. And each year, millions of Americans are  sickened by swimming in contaminated water. 

An analysis of fecal indicator bacteria sampling data  from beaches in 29 coastal and Great Lakes states and  Puerto Rico reveals that 328 beaches – more than  one of every 10 beaches surveyed – were potentially  unsafe on at least 25% of the days that sampling took  place in 2020. More than half of all the 3,166 beaches  reviewed were potentially unsafe for swimming on  at least one day. Beaches were considered potentially  unsafe if fecal indicator bacteria levels exceeded the  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “Beach Action  Value” associated with an estimated illness rate of 32  out of every 1,000 swimmers. 

To protect our health at the beach, policymakers  should undertake efforts to prevent fecal pollution,  including deploying natural and green infrastructure  to absorb stormwater. 

Fecal contamination makes beaches unsafe for  swimming. Human contact with contaminated water  can result in gastrointestinal illness as well as respiratory  disease, ear and eye infection, and skin rash. Each year  in the U.S., people contract an estimated 57 million  cases of recreational waterborne illness from swimming  in oceans, lakes, rivers and ponds.

Our beaches are at risk. Runoff from paved surfaces, overflows from aging sewage systems, and manure from industrial livestock operations all threaten the waters  where Americans swim. These pollution threats are  getting worse with climate change, as more extreme  precipitation events bring heavy flows of stormwater. 

Report | PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center

Cleaner Cars for PA

Transportation is one of Pennsylvania’s leading sources of the air pollution that harms our health and contributes to global warming. One-quarter of Pennsylvania’s greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation and more than a third of the nitrogen oxide emissions that contribute to harmful ozone smog come from highway vehicles.

Report | PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center

Electric Buildings

To prevent air and water pollution and avoid the worst impacts of global warming, America must move toward meeting our energy needs with 100% renew-able energy. Getting there will require that we get the most out of every bit of energy we use — and that we stop burn-ing fossil fuels in our homes and commercial buildings.

Report | PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center

Microplastics in Pennsylvania

Plastic is everywhere and in everything. It’s used as packaging, it’s in food service products, and it’s in clothing. All told, Americans generate over 35 million tons of plastic waste every year, 90% of which is landfilled or incinerated.1 In fact, the U.S. throws out enough plastic every 16 hours to fill the Dallas Cowboys stadium, and that amount is increasing.

Report | PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center

Accelerating the Transition to Electric School Buses

THE VAST MAJORITY of school buses in the United States run on diesel, a fossil fuel that has been shown to cause numerous health problems, including asthma, bronchitis, and cancer. Diesel exhaust is also a greenhouse gas, which contributes to climate change. However, there is an alternative: zero-emission battery electric school buses.