Jan 08, 2010

EPA Announces More Than $9 Million in Beach Grants to Help Protect Swimmers

Beach grants enable states and territories to more than double number of beaches at which they monitor water quality since 2003

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is making almost $10 million in grants available to 37 eligible coastal and Great Lakes states, territories and tribes to monitor beach water quality and notify the public of conditions that may be unsafe for swimming.

“This funding will help states monitor their beaches and provide beach-goers with critical water quality information,” said Peter Silva, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water. “Protecting the beach-going public from illness is a national priority and EPA will continue to invest in this type of initiative.”

This marks the 10th year that EPA provides beach grant funds, with more than $90 million awarded to states, territories and tribes since 2001. The 2010 grants continue to build upon efforts by EPA and the states to provide consistent public health protection and up-to-date public information about local beach conditions. The beach grants have also enabled states and territories to more than double the number of beaches at which they monitor water quality since 2003. Increased pubic information about beach water quality also serves as a motivator for beach communities to identify sources of contamination and to take corrective action.

The funds are made available under the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act of 2000. EPA estimates that one-third of all Americans visit coastal areas each year, making a total of 910 million trips while spending more than $40 billion annually. EPA also estimated that coastal recreation and the related tourism industry together serve 180 million Americans, support more than 28 million jobs and generate billions of dollars in goods and services each year.

While the EPA said its BEACH Act grants are a cornerstone of federal efforts to develop strong state beach protection programs, the agency is also focusing on developing new technologies to more quickly identify bacterial contamination at beaches. Numerous state-of-the-art detection methods and results from scientific research studies are currently being evaluated, EPA said.