April 17 2013
Last week, the Obama Administration released the FY2014 budget, and once again it eliminates the EPA’s Beach Grant Program that funds recreational water quality monitoring programs to protect swimmer safety.
Public outcry over these same cuts last year motivated supporters in Congress to ensure continued funding for this program throughout 2013 but the President’s current proposal threatens future funding of this popular program.
EPA’s Beach Grant Program funds beach water testing efforts and ensures that health standards are applied consistently in coastal states across the country. The proposal to eliminate this program will seriously endanger the health and safety of the over 100 million beachgoers and swimmers across the nation and the vitality of US coastal, tourism-based economies that are worth more than $80 billion annually.
“If you take away funding for water quality testing, you put families and children at risk,” says actor and Surfrider Foundation supporter David Chokachi. “Everyone has a right to know if the water at the beach is safe to swim in.”
Last year, David along with representatives from the Surfrider Foundation and other environmental organizations traveled to Washington D.C. to speak at a Senate briefing about the importance of continued federal funding for the BEACH Act.
“By defunding the BEACH Act program, state and local governments will now be solely responsible for water quality testing,” Chokachi continues. “Unfortunately, the reality is that some states rely entirely on the EPA grants to support their beach programs, so these states may stop their beach water quality monitoring altogether. Many other states will likely test less often, use less safe standards, or could drop monitoring completely during the offseason, when surfers tend to dominate ocean use.”
“We’ve spoken to representatives from several different state agencies across the country over the past year, and they are deciding which beaches to stop testing, which staff to lay off, and if they can keep their water testing labs running at all with these looming budget cuts,” says Surfrider Foundation Water Quality Manager Mara Dias.
“Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card Program uses beach water quality monitoring data to provide the public with weekly grades at over 650 beaches along the West Coast,” says Kirsten James, Heal The Bay’s Science and Policy Director. “If the proposed funding cuts occur, the public will be swimming at their own risk at many of these beaches.”
Visit the Surfrider Foundation’s website to contact your representatives in DC and let them know that you have the right to know if a day at the beach could make you sick.