EPA Acts to Make Beaches Cleaner and Safer

Nov. 9, 2004

To further protect beach goers at their favorite recreational spots, EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt signed a final regulation that helps improve the health of the nation’s beaches on coastal and Great Lakes waters.

"This Administration has taken an important step in fulfilling the promise of clean, safe beaches for every American," said EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt. "We're putting in place improved, health-based standards for pathogens in water to further protect the public, particularly children who are often more vulnerable to bacteria-causing illnesses in beach water."

The BEACH Act of 2000 required coastal states and states bordering the Great Lakes to adopt bacteria standards by April 2004 to better protect beach bathers from harmful pathogens. For states that have not yet adopted more protective standards, the Act required EPA to establish standards.

Acting Assistant Administrator Ben Grumbles noted, "The rule reflects our priorities of working with States and others to improve water quality monitoring, public health protection and coastal watersheds – all important recommendations of the US Commission on Ocean Policy in its recent Report."

Of the 35 states and territories that have coastal or Great Lakes recreational waters, 14 have adopted water quality standards that are as protective of health as EPA’s recommended criteria for all their coastal recreation waters, five have adopted the criteria for some of their coastal recreation waters, 13 states are in the process of fully adopting the criteria and three have not begun the process. Although the agency is establishing federal standards through this final rule, any state that adopts its own standards that are as protective as EPA’s and receives approval will be removed from these federal requirements.

EPA will continue to grant funding to all BEACH Act states and territories regardless of their status under this action. The agency is committed to ensuring continued monitoring of the nation’s beaches and public notification of beach closures and advisories. EPA estimates that Americans take a total of 910 million trips to coastal areas each year and spend about $44 billion at those beach locations. EPA has provided about $32 million in grants to help states implement this monitoring program.

Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency