Since 2008, North Carolina has had some of the cleanest beaches in the nation — and 2012 is no exception.

Since 2008, North Carolina has had some of the cleanest beaches in the nation — and 2012 is no exception.

A report released recently by the Natural Resource Defense Council detailed the environmental health of thousands of vacation beaches nationally and rated them depending on how safe they were for swimmers.

Rated third in the nation, out of 30 states, North Carolina’s monitored beach samples for bacteria in the water exceeded national standards in 2012 only 2 percent of the time, according to the report, "Testing the Waters."

The nation’s worst state in the report, Ohio, had samples that exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency’s standards 21 percent of the time, according to Jon Devine, the NRDC’s senior water attorney, in a conference call.

Erin Bryan-Millush, an environmental specialist with the N.C. Department of Natural Resources who monitors beaches, attributed the clean water to proactive local governments and lower rain amounts than usual in 2012.

Storm water runoff and sewer overflow are two of the top contaminators of beach water nationwide, Devine said.

“When you get to the beach, use your common sense,” he said. That includes avoiding swimming near flowing storm drains, not swimming after rainstorms, looking to see if the water is murky before jumping in, and not swallowing the water.

Contaminants in water can cause health issues ranging from gastrointestinal, ear, eye, throat and neurological problems. NRDC Water Program Director Steve Fleischli added that children and grandparents are the most susceptible to these.

Both are more of a problem in years where hurricanes batter the North Carolina coast, Bryan-Millush said.

Statewide, 60 percent of contamination stemmed from storm water runoff, 48 percent from wildlife and 9 percent from unknown contamination sources.

Across the state, only 14 percent, or 33 total, of monitored beaches exceeded state standards in 2012, while none exceeded more than 10 percent of state standards, according to the report.

"Statewide, North Carolina generally has pristine water," she said.

To check out local beaches' water quality, visit