We all rely on regular water quality monitoring at the beach to ensure that the water is clean and safe. A day at the beach should be fun and enjoyable and not cause you or your family to get sick.
Unfortunately, massive budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have been proposed in the President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2019, including the complete elimination of the BEACH Act Grants program. This critical program helps coastal states pay for their beach water quality monitoring and public notification programs so beachgoers know where it is safe to surf and swim.
More than half of our coastal states rely solely on their federal BEACH Grant to pay for their beach monitoring programs. Without it, many states will be forced to stop testing all together, leaving residents and visitors alike, unknowingly at risk of exposure to bacteria and other disease causing pollutants.
Nationwide, the public health cost of recreating in polluted water is a whopping $2.9 billion. A recent study by the University of Illinois and Indiana University was the first of its kind to put a price tag on the public health costs of pollution in our nation’s recreational waters. Researchers considered illness contracted by exposure to polluted water (largely human sources of fecal pollution) during swimming/wading, paddling, motor-boating and fishing in our nation’s lakes, rivers and marine beaches.
The $2.9 billion price tag covers the medical costs and loss-of-income associated with an estimated rate of 90 million cases of illness per year. Illnesses contracted includes gastro-intestinal sickness, ear, eye and skin related infections and more severe, pathogen-specific illnesses. The more than 100 million beachgoers who visit U. S. beaches every year deserve fair warning if the water is polluted.
Likewise public confidence in clean water at the beach fuels coastal recreation and tourism industries worth over $100 billion nationwide and provide 2.15 million jobs. Public health and this important economic activity are worth protecting with regular beach water quality testing programs.
The Surfrider Foundation and our coalition partners were successful in building support in Congress to reject similar budget cuts proposed by the administration last year, and we need your help again. Please join us in asking Congress to support funding for the EPA Beaches Grant program in the FY 2019 budget. Just click here to send your email.
Let Congress know that clean water at the beach is important to you and your family!