Green Group Sues EPA Over Filthy U.S. Beaches

An environmental group has sued federal regulators, charging that they failed to protect beaches and the Great Lakes from pollution and that negligence by the Bush administration exposed swimmers and surfers to potential illnesses.

The lawsuit, filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council in U.S. District Court on Thursday, charged that the Environmental Protection Agency failed to protect the public against the "substantial adverse health effects" from contact with contaminated beach-water.

In 2000, Congress passed a law requiring the EPA to update its beach-water health standards by 2005. The agency missed the deadline and current standards are two decades old, according to court documents.

The lawsuit was filed on the same day the group issued a report that found beach closings due to hazardous bacterial contamination in Los Angeles County jumped 50 percent in 2005. Across the nation, beaches were closed or posted with health advisories 20,000 times last year, the report said.

EPA spokesman Dale Kemery did not address the lawsuit, but said in a statement "the state of the nation's beach health remains high, even as the number of beaches monitored increased by 11 percent in 2005."

The agency "has made significant progress in carrying out its responsibilities under the" 2000 law, he said.

The lawsuit asks the court to order the agency to complete the water-quality studies and publish revised safety rules.

The pollution comes from a wide mix of sources, including animal waste, factories, septic tanks, sewage, pesticides and oil and metals deposited on city streets.