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With the Fourth of July holiday upon us, and the summer beach season in high gear, EPA’s New England office is awarding a $223,370 grant to help support the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) beach program. The grant funds will be used to continue efforts to monitor water quality conditions at Connecticut’s Long Island Sound beaches to ensure that people enjoying the beach are also enjoying healthy water conditions.
This EPA funding was made available through the federal Beach Act of 2000, which requires coastal states to monitor beaches and notify the public about water quality. Since 2001, Connecticut has been awarded $1,181,224 towards improving water quality monitoring and reporting at shoreline beaches. With this year’s funds, the amount awarded in the region will surpass $7 million.
The EPA funding will allow the CT DPH to bring water quality samples from municipal and state park beaches to the state laboratory in Hartford for analysis, and assist Connecticut with reporting beach monitoring results, closures and advisories. This means that samples collected by local health departments, which administer the municipal beaches, and by the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, which manages the state beaches, are analyzed using the same procedures, ensuring consistent, high-quality results.
“Because Connecticut’s beach season is so short, it makes every beach day a precious one,” said Robert Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “EPA’s goal is to eliminate chronic beach closures across New England. We are working with state and local officials to develop and implement aggressive efforts to remove sources of contamination, so that everyone can enjoy a day at the beach.”
EPA's Clean New England Beaches Initiative has helped states and local beach managers take the next steps of finding and eliminating pollution sources that cause beach closures.
Polluted runoff and untreated sewage released into the water can contain bacteria, viruses, and protozoans, some of which can cause minor illnesses such as gastroenteritis or more serious diseases such as hepatitis. Runoff can be contaminated from pet waste, wildlife, illicit connections and various other sources. Sources of sewage include leaking sewer pipes, failing septic systems, boats and combined sewer overflows. Detecting these bacteria requires consistent, high quality monitoring; exposure is preventable.
Since 2001, CT DPH has monitored between 67 and 73 beaches. The number of beach closures in any given year in Connecticut has been low. In 2006, however, 39 out of 67 monitored beaches were closed one or several days for a total of 222 days out of more than 6000 beach days for the summer. That’s a slight increase from previous years, and can be attributed to a small increase in the number of preemptive closures to protect swimmers from runoff associated with rainfall events.