What’s causing so many beaches to close?

BOSTON — This has been a tough stretch for local beaches as dozens of spots up and down the coast have been shut down due to high levels of pollution.

All the rain we’re currently experiencing will only make the situation worse.

Bruce Berman, lead consultant for the Metropolitan Beaches Commission, said Boston has the “cleanest urban beaches in the country.”

But that doesn’t mean it’s always safe to swim at the harbor beaches, or other areas around the state.

“We have some problems related to individual pipes,” added Berman.

The harbor has made great strides over the past couple of decades because most of the sewerage is now treated.

But there can be lapses.

“The big driver for dirty water is rain,” explained Berman. “We have a system in this area that’s called a combined sewer system.”

That means that stormwater runs through the same pipes that carry sewerage.

When there is heavy rain, it can overwhelm the system.

In order to prevent sewerage backups into homes, businesses, and streets, the CSO discharges some of the sewerage and rainwater into the nearest body of water.

It’s after those heavy rain events that it can become safe to swim in the water.

Climate change is expected to bring heavier rainfall and increase sea level which would make the situation worse.

“I think we need to start to think about it now,” said Berman.

In the meantime, he has this advice. “The smartest thing you can do is just to use some common sense. If there’s been a big rainstorm in the previous 24 hours, go for a walk and wait 24 hours before you go into the water.”

The state tests hundreds of public swimming areas, including those with both fresh and salt water, for high levels of bacteria and dangerous algae blooms.

They post their results so you can check to see if your destination is experiencing any problems before you head out.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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