Water Quality, Illness
July 08 2013

Safe-guarding US beaches

by Mara Dias

Summer is here.  Coastal towns across the country are flocked with people looking for a break from the heat and fun at the beach.  Unfortunately, the federal government and the US Environmental Protection Agency does not seem to be taking its job to protect the beach-going public too seriously.

Late last year, the EPA released revised water quality standards that failed to strengthen public health protection and instead will likely cause confusion and disparity amongst states when they are implemented.  Read more here.

Earlier this year, the EPA, for the second year in a row, proposed to eliminate all funding for their Beaches Grant Program which helps all coastal states pay for their beach water testing programs.  The elimination of this federal source of funding will result in fewer beaches being tested less often, and we will not have the information available to decide which beaches are safe and clean. Read more here.

The Huffington Post ran a good story recently on EPA's failure to fully protect public health at our beaches:  How EPA Could Ruin Your Summer Vacation. 

Fortunately there are some staunch beach supporters in Congress who are not afraid to keep EPA on task.  Before his unfortunate passing last month, Senator Lautenberg from New Jersey was a strong advocate for US beaches.  Also from New Jersey, Representative Frank Pallone held a press conference this past holiday week calling on the Congress to restore federal funding for beach water testing programs and announcing a new bill he submitted to reauthorize the original BEACH Bill passed in 2000.  More here.

The Beach Act of 2013 (HR 2601) raises the authorized level of funding from $30 million to $40 million.  It allows states to use their beach grants to track the sources of beach pollution, and it includes provisions for EPA to continue evaluating and approving new rapid testing methods.   Improvements in public notification programs are proposed, and the EPA is directed to perform studies on the impacts of climate change and excess nutrients of coastal recreational waters.  Full bill text available here.

Hopefully we see a similar bill proposed into the Senate soon and progress towards restoring funding for the EPA Beaches Grant Program.