May 29, 2008

EPA Releases 2007 Swimming Season Update

Report shows beach water quality managers are improving monitoring and prevention

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) recently-released 2007 Swimming Season Update shows state and territorial beach water quality managers are improving monitoring and prevention, and beaches were open for use 95% of beach days in 2007.

"We're all doing more to prevent pollution, monitor water quality and protect public health at America's beaches and this report reflects the progress, as well as the continuing challenges," said Assistant Administrator for Water Benjamin H. Grumbles. "EPA is strengthening the science and increasing public awareness to help state and local partners reduce upstream storm water pollution and downstream beach closures."

During the 2007 swimming season, some beaches were restricted because of contamination-related closings, but most beaches that did have closings were closed for less than two days. Beach days are those counted during the beach season for a given area. Many beaches are open seasonally, although beach days may be counted for most or all of a calendar year in warmer areas.

Beach contamination is often from storm water running off streets, fields, forests and other sources. EPA and its state partners are continuing solid progress in collecting and reporting data that provides a good picture of water quality conditions at our nation's beaches. EPA is also working with its partners to develop and use tools to identify and reduce beach pollution. The EPA BEACH Grant program has made available $71 million to 35 coastal and Great Lakes states and territories since the passage of the BEACH Act in 2000. The funding level for beach monitoring is $9.75 million this year.

Coastal and Great Lakes states and territories report beach monitoring and notification data to EPA on their coastal recreation waters. EPA maintains an electronic monitoring and notification database, and provides states and territories with BEACH Act grants for monitoring and reporting their beach information to EPA. The information submitted by coastal states and territories to EPA regarding beach closings and advisories is reflected in the annual Swimming Season Update. This same information is available to the public.

EPA beach research centers on new and ongoing activities meant to establish benchmarks, explore emerging technologies and refine methodology. Each of these actions is focused on preventing the pollution that can make the beaches and waters unsafe:
&#149 continuing to place a national priority on enforcement against sewer overflows, a key cause of beach closures;
&#149 development of a new test for waterborne pathogens that will provide results within six hours;
&#149 research to determine the incidence of health effects associated with beach water;
&#149 uncovering and correcting sources of disease-causing microorganisms;
&#149 working with communities to help build and properly operate their sewage treatment plants and end sewage overflows from outdated sewer systems;
&#149 implementing a national storm water program to reduce urban runoff; and
&#149 working with the Coast Guard to improve sewage and other waste disposal from recreational boats and other vessels.