Blue Water Task Force, Partnerships, Water Quality
October 17 2011


by Mara Dias

On October 18, 1972, Congress enacted the Clean Water Act in response to growing public concern for serious and widespread water pollution.  In recent years, budget cuts have forced health and environmental agencies to scale back their beach water testing programs, and across the country, many beaches are left untested putting swimmers and surfers at risk of getting sick and suffering from skin rashes, infections, and gastrointestinal illnesses.

On the 39th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, Alacer Corp., maker of Emergen-C Blue vitamin drink mix, announced that, in partnership with the Surfrider Foundation, they are working to raise awareness about the need for clean water and alert communities about water quality issues through the Blue Water Task Force.  The Task Force monitors bacteria levels at beaches and freshwater sites, and compares them to federal water quality standards established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect public health in recreational waters.

Volunteers from participating Surfrider chapters post water quality monitoring results at to alert swimmers, surfers, and the general public of pollution incidents and longer-term water quality issues in their local communities.  In most locations, state and local beach monitoring programs are underfunded and limited in scope.  The Blue Water Task Force supported by Emergen-C Blue, is able to provide valuable water quality information where it is otherwise scarce or unavailable.  Chapters have also used their water quality data to identify beach and water pollution issues, and have worked collaboratively within their local communities to implement solutions for pollution problem(s).

Comprised of nearly 30 chapters, the Blue Water Task Force monitors beaches along the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Pacific Coasts, as well as the tropical waters of Puerto Rico and Hawaii.  There are numerous ways in which local chapters participate, including collecting water samples at their local beaches and running their own water testing labs, delivering water samples to local or state labs, and/or partnering with other coastal organizations such as universities, aquariums, and watershed groups to monitor water quality and identify pollution issues.  Many Task Force programs are also based in schools and provide a valuable educational experience for local students.

For nearly two years, the activists and students at Astoria High, who run the Blue Water Task Force water testing program in Cannon Beach, Oregon, have been urging the City to figure out what is causing storm water outfall at the end of Ecola Court, Cannon Beach that discharges onto a popular beach near Haystack Rock, which flows across the sand in a shallow creek until it meets the Pacific Ocean.  The Task Force has also been urging that the City provide better warning to the public of the contamination.  As a result of the Task Force's efforts, similar recommendations are now being made by the Ecola Creek Watershed Council, and the City is researching their best option to do some source-tracking work to identify the cause of the pollution coming out of the Ecola Court stormdrain. To read more about these pollution prevention efforts in Oregon, click here.

To read more about the collective efforts of the Blue Water Task Force supported by Emergen-C Blue, visit Surfrider's Coastal Blog.

Join Surfrider's efforts to improve beach water testing nationwide, by sending an email to your Senator and asking them to pass a new Beach Bill.