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beach closure sign

Bad Sign on a Good Beach

You never want to see a sign like this on a beach, especially right before the traditional Memorial Day start of summer. The waters off beaches are regularly tested to ensure that they don't contain unhealthful bacteria levels. But a lag time between when the water is sampled and when the results come in can cause beach closures after bacteria have dispersed, or openings when bacteria are present but not yet counted. In addition, beach sand is not regularly tested. New detection methods based on identifying bacterial DNA could significantly shorten the time between sampling and results and let managers make more timely decisions about beaches. (Photo by Elizabeth Halliday, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)


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