America's 7 Most Polluted Beaches As Of 2024 (2024)


  • The Surfrider Foundation's Blue Water Task Force has conducted water quality tests at various beaches across the United States, measuring bacteria levels to determine the safety of these beaches for recreational use.
  • Some of the most polluted beaches in America in 2024 include Flying Point: Mecox Bay in Southampton, New York, and Imperial Beach in California.
  • South Sound Thea Foss Floating Dock in Tacoma, Washington, is another highly polluted beach area with worryingly high bacteria levels.

Not only is America dotted with otherworldly mountain vistas, cascading waterfalls, towering canyons, glistening lakes, and meandering rivers, but it's also blessed with beautiful beaches. Florida, California, and Hawaii are just some of the best destinations for travelers searching for gorgeous beaches in the US.

With summer already in full swing, this also means it's beach season in the USA. Of course, many beachgoers are gearing up for ice cream cones, flip-flops, tie-die days, and all things summer flings. While these sound like a thrill, it's also important that the beach destination is clean and safe for everyone and the generations to come. Unfortunately, some of them are not safe or clean due to pollution.

However, the world is filled with beautiful souls, such as Greenpeace International, which coordinates with other volunteers to educate people on the importance of clean oceans, rivers, lakes, and beaches. These volunteers and groups work together to help the bodies of water recover from such toxic chemicals and waste, including high levels of fecal coliform. Irresponsible waste management, the greed of businesses, and unregulated tourism are three of the massive threats to killing this planet. Sadly, these are caused by humans, and they affect the beaches of the USA, too.

Despite the extended efforts of many groups and volunteers, the world is still dotted with many dirty beaches and oceans, and the US hasn't escaped, either. In 2023, California's Avalon Beach was one of the dirtiest beaches in America. Fortunately, this year, Avalon Beach is no longer part of the top ten most polluted beaches in the US. Still, California remains on the list, with Imperial Beach topping the top 10 dirtiest beaches in the country, alongside Hawaii's Nāwiliwili Stream.

The Surfrider Foundation, an organization dedicated to protecting the oceans and beaches, and its Blue Water Task Force (BWTF) recently conducted water quality tests at its labs and sampling sites, measuring bacteria levels to determine the hazards of using these beaches for recreational use. According to the latest Surfrider's clean-water report, the beaches on the East Coast, West Coast, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii are among the most polluted beaches in America. To put it simply, you can't swim on these beaches without risking getting sick.

Take a look at some of the most polluted beaches in America in 2024 and see what you can contribute to helping these destinations heal from the harmful effects of the high levels of bacteria found in the waters.

The Bacteria Rate of each beach is the percentage level of the water samples collected for testing, which failed to meet the state health standard for recreational use. Underlying issues of these polluted beaches are the effects of stormwater runoff, poor sewage management, harmful chemicals, and garbage.


7 Unusually Colored Beaches In America

From smoky gray, green, and purple to deep rust and bright rainbow, these strange beach colors in the US particularly stand out.

7 Flying Point: Mecox Bay — Southampton, New York

Bacteria rate: 46%

America's 7 Most Polluted Beaches As Of 2024 (2)

Mecox Bay, New York

Located where Mecox Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean, Flying Point is a gorgeous beach destination for New Yorkers. White-sand beaches and scenic sand dunes with many species of birds dot the area, and these are among the reasons why it's also one of the best beaches to visit on Long Island, which is also filled with many other beautiful places to visit.

However, Flying Point turned out to be one of the most polluted beaches in America this year, with a high level of bacteria at 46%, which means it's unsafe for recreational use. Fortunately, the local government has been steadfast in its efforts to solve this problem. Flying Point has now started to be cleared of hazards.

Clean-Up Efforts:


Nearby Beaches:

Coopers Beach, East Hampton Main Beach, W. Scott Cameron Beach

6 South Sound Thea Foss Floating Dock — Tacoma, Washington

Bacteria rate: 47%

South Sound Thea Foss Floating Dock is a seaport museum nestled in Tacoma, a low-key alternative to Seattle and the birthplace of glass art. Thea Foss Seaport itself is culturally and historically rich, preserving the maritime heritage of Tacoma and the Puget Sound Region with art displays, permanent and temporary exhibits, a beautiful wooden boat shop, kid-friendly features, and a functional dock.

Named after Thea Christiansen Foss, the founder of the largest tugboat company in the western US, known as Foss Maritime, the seaport has attracted many families and travelers for its unique waterfront features. However, the floating dock itself is unsafe, as it's also contaminated with pollutants that cause harm in its waterway, which is part of Commencement Bay.

On the plus side, the City of Tacoma has been extending its efforts for many years to clean up its waterways, particularly the Thea Foss Waterway.

Clean-Up Efforts:


Nearby Beaches:

Owen Beach, Kopachuck State Park, American Lake Park

5 Linda Mar Beach — Pacifica, California

Bacteria rate: 54%

One of the largest beaches in Pacifica, Linda Mar Beach is a surfing haven for many beginners in the San Francisco area. Officially known as Pacifica State Beach, Linda Mar's waters were tested to be contaminated with a high bacteria rate of 54%, making it unsafe for recreational use, especially for surfers and beachgoers flocking to the area.

Pacifica, an underrated but scenic small-town alternative to San Francisco, has been graced by volunteers who have been hard at work in their beach cleanup efforts and campaigns, which will help Linda Mar Beach recover from all the hazards. Of course, Linda Mar deserves these efforts, especially since it's a popular beach destination for families with small children.

Clean-Up Efforts:


Nearby Beaches:

Rockaway Beach, San Pedro Beach, Shelter Cove Beach

If you're in the Pacifica area or nearby and have spare time, the Pacific Beach Coalition will be glad to have you on board as a volunteer for beach clean-up. See this schedule for more details.


10 Most Dangerous Beaches In The US

With dangers including strong currents, rip tides, and even shark attack incidents, these are some of the most dangerous beaches in America.

4 Park View Island Kayak Launch — Miami Beach, Florida

Bacteria rate: 73%

America's 7 Most Polluted Beaches As Of 2024 (4)

Park View Island, Miami Beach, Florida

The water pollution on Park View Island in Miami Beach, known for its beautiful beaches and vibrant nightlife, has been a headache for locals and environmental groups for many years. In the recent test that the Surfrider Foundation conducted, the kayak launch area of Park View Island hit a 73% bacteria rate, which is toxic enough for people and animals, particularly marine life.

One of the underlying issues in the area's contaminated waters is the city's old and deteriorating pipes, which are vulnerable to sewage spills. In 2020, a sewage spill on Lincoln Road fractured the city's sewer main, causing a continuous issue in the area, especially on Parkview Island. Miami Beach is one of the best parts of Florida to visit, but sewerage woes shouldn't have to be a threat to its waters.

Clean-Up Efforts:


Nearby Beaches:

La Playa de Los Pajaros, North Beach, Ocean Terrace Public Beach

The International SeaKeepers Society and the Park View Island Sustainable Development Association have been doing beach clean-ups and campaigns to help Parkview Island retain its once beautiful and healthy waters.

3 Kahalu’u — Oahu, Hawaii

Bacteria rate: 86%

Kahalu’u is chronically polluted, and the Surfrider Foundation has been testing the waters in the area to see if the bacteria rate has toned down. Sadly, it's becoming a trend for Kahalu’u, bearing a high bacteria rate of 86% with a huge presence of enterococcus, which indicates fecal bacteria, as well as disease-causing pathogens—all these make humans and animals sick.

Cesspools are a major pollutant on Kahalu'u, causing massive sewage leaks into the ocean—a chronic problem in the area. Lawmakers have been looking into banning cesspools by 2050, which is more than two decades from now. But they're also thinking about imposing a cesspool pollution fee and are trying to convince homeowners to replace their cesspools with a septic system.

Located on Oahu, Hawaii's most popular island, Kahalu'u in Hawaiian means "diving place," hugging the coastline along Kaneohe Bay, which is a good spot for snorkeling, diving, and other watersports activities.

Clean-Up Efforts:


Nearby Beaches:

Heʻeia State Park, Kaneohe Sandbar, Kāneʻohe Beach Park

Surfrider Foundation Oahu has also been making efforts to clean up the beaches on Oahu.

2 Nāwiliwili Stream At Kalapakī Bay — Līhuʻe, Kauaʻi, Hawaii

Bacteria rate: 100%

At a staggering 100% bacteria rate, Nāwiliwili Stream at Kalapakī Bay has failed the water test again since the Surfrider Foundation started its water testing efforts in the area in 2016. Just like Kahalu’u, the Nāwiliwili Stream is another victim of Hawaii's, particularly Kaua’i's, thousands of cesspools, which eventually leak into waterways and oceans, poisoning the beaches.

The Nāwiliwili Stream is located in Kaua’i, which is known for its lush forests, beautiful waterfalls, and gorgeous beaches—and one of the most relaxing things to do in Kaua’i is lounging on the beach while enjoying the warm Hawaiian sun. The high presence of enterococcus, though, is one big issue that travelers must consider.

Clean-Up Efforts:


Nearby Beaches:

Kalapakī Beach, Niumalu Beach Park, Hanamāʻulu Beach Park


California Is Home To The Most Polluted Cities In America

California may have beautiful beaches and national and state parks, but it has some of the worst air quality in the nation.

1 Imperial Beach — California

Bacteria rate: 100%

Known for its almost four miles of uncrowded white-sand beaches and big waves, Imperial Beach is a beautiful destination for travelers seeking a relaxed beach escape. However, the recent water test result that the Surfrider Foundation discovered broke the hearts of many beachgoers and locals.

At a 100% bacteria rate, it's clear that the city's beaches are unsafe for humans and animals, including its marine life. It turned out that Imperial Beach is suffering from a failing sewage system, which is now being worked on by the city government, with initiatives such as the rehabilitation and expansion of the International Wastewater Treatment Plant and the replacement of the Punta Bandera plant.

Clean-Up Efforts:


Nearby Beaches:

Silver Strand State Beach, Bayside Park, Mission Beach Park

America's 7 Most Polluted Beaches As Of 2024 (2024)


America's 7 Most Polluted Beaches As Of 2024? ›

Among the top 10 most polluted locations mentioned in the report, three are in California. At the top of this list is Imperial Beach in San Diego, where every sample collected turned up bacteria counts that exceeded the state's health standard for recreational waters, the report said.

What is the most polluted beach in the United States? ›

Among the top 10 most polluted locations mentioned in the report, three are in California. At the top of this list is Imperial Beach in San Diego, where every sample collected turned up bacteria counts that exceeded the state's health standard for recreational waters, the report said.

Are California beaches contaminated? ›

Most polluted US beaches are in California

Imperial Beach in San Diego, California, was one of two beaches where every water sample collected recorded levels exceeding recreational health standards. LOS ANGELES - California is home to one of the most polluted beaches in the world, according to a new study.

How many beaches are affected by pollution? ›

Contamination levels varied by region. Exceeding the EPA's BAV on at least one day in 2022 were 48% of East Coast beaches, 63% of Great Lakes beaches, 84% of Gulf Coast beaches, and 70% of West Coast beaches. The Environment America Research and Policy Center is part of the Public Interest Network.

Where is the cleanest beach in the United States? ›

Schoolhouse Beach in Wisconsin Named the Clearest Water in America.

Where is the cleanest air and water in the USA? ›

  • Hawaii. #1 in Air & Water Quality. #34 in Best States Overall. ...
  • Virginia. #2 in Air & Water Quality. ...
  • Massachusetts. #3 in Air & Water Quality. ...
  • Minnesota. #4 in Air & Water Quality. ...
  • South Carolina. #5 in Air & Water Quality. ...
  • Florida. #6 in Air & Water Quality. ...
  • North Dakota. #7 in Air & Water Quality. ...
  • Nebraska. #8 in Air & Water Quality.

What is the safest beach in California? ›

Carpinteria, a small town some 12 miles outside Santa Barbara, says it is the home of “the world's safest beach,” and for 90 years newspaper adverts have boasted of its clean, wide sands and lack of rip current.

Which beaches have bacteria? ›

Bacteria warning issued for 18 beaches in Los Angeles County
  • Santa Monica Canyon Creek at Will Rogers State Beach (near Will Rogers Tower 18, 100 yards up and down the coast from the creek)
  • Topanga Canyon Beach in Malibu (100 yards up and down the coast from the lagoon)
  • Mothers Beach in Marina Del Rey (entire swim area)
4 days ago

Is it safe to swim in California ocean? ›

Is it safe to swim in the ocean? Yes. The vast majority of ocean waters along the coast of Los Angeles County meet State ocean water quality standards. The only exceptions are areas adjacent to or in front of discharging storm drains and after major rainstorms.

What happens if you don't shower after the beach? ›

Failing to rinse off can lead to burns or rashes from skin rubbing against sand and getting irritated. In the extremes of cases, open wounds can become infected, leading to extreme diseases or discomfort.

What happens if you swim in polluted water? ›

A lot of germs that live in water cause stomach and intestinal upset. These can bring diarrhea or vomiting. You can also get skin rashes, ear or eye pain, and a cough or congestion after swimming in contaminated waters.

Is it safe to swim in beaches in the United States? ›

As water flows from land to coastal waters, it is often contaminated by untreated sewage from boats, pets, failing septic systems, fertilizers, and spills from hazardous substances. High levels of bacteria and other chemicals in the water can cause gastrointestinal illnesses in those who swim directly in the water.

Where in the U.S. is the most polluted water? ›

The most polluted water in the US is often found in regions with heavy industrial and agricultural activity. Rivers such as the Ohio River, Mississippi River, and various rivers in the Rust Belt region are among the most heavily polluted water bodies in the country.

What is the most polluted site in the United States? ›

A new book investigates the toxic legacy of Hanford, the Washington state facility that produced plutonium for nuclear weapons. The most polluted place in the United States — perhaps the world — is one most people don't even know. Hanford Nuclear Site sits in the flat lands of eastern Washington.

Why is Myrtle beach water so dirty? ›

Heavy Rains Can Cause Temporary Advisories

Along the way, the water can pick up contaminants, carrying them to the outfall pipes and ultimately into the ocean.

What is the most harmful seaside on the planet? ›

19 Most Dangerous Beaches in the World
  • Monastery Beach, US. Photo Credit: Laurens Hoddenbagh/Shutterstock. ...
  • Skeleton Coast, Namibia. Photo Credit: muratart/Shutterstock. ...
  • Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. ...
  • Gulf of Eilat, Israel. ...
  • Gansbaai, South Africa. ...
  • Cape Tribulation, Australia. ...
  • K'gari, Australia. ...
  • Boa Viagem Beach, Brazil.
Mar 31, 2024

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