State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection photo.

Last year, Connecticut beaches along our coast were shut down or had pollution advisory warnings posted a cumulative total of 298 days, according to the National Resources Defense Council. And that was good news.

It was good because our Long Island Sound beaches were shut or had warnings posted on 538 days in 2011.

Connecticut was ranked 17th in the nation in terms of the group's annual Testing the Waters" report. That translates to 16 states having cleaner beaches last year than the Land of Steady Habits.

"When it comes to clean water, being 'middle of the pack' is not good enough," insists Leah Schmalz, a spokeswoman for the Save the Sound non-profit group. "Even one closing because of bacteria or pollution is too many."

Schmalz notes that many local health departments in Connecticut will shut down local beaches if even just one inch of rain falls in a 24-hour period because they are so worried about pollution runoff from storm drains into the Sound.

Connecticut is making some progress on cleaning up its water, Schmalz says, especially with more state funding allocated this year to help keep bacteria out of the Sound's waters.

Here's a list of Connecticut beaches, according to the Testing the Waters report, with the worst record of topping Connecticut's maximum level of allowable bacteria:

- Pear Tree Point Beach in Darien (above allowable standard 28 percent of the time).

- Seabluff Beach in West Haven (also above the standard 28 percent of the time).

- Oak Street B Beach in West Haven (above 20 percent of the time).

- Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk (above 19 percent of the time).

- Weed Beach in Darien (above 19 percent of the time).

- Rowayton Beach in Norwalk (also above 19 percent of the time).

Which means it looks like Darien takes the Bacteria Beach Prize for 2012.