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U.S. EPA beach monitoring data on bacteria indicate that beaches were safe for swimming 96% of the time in 2005. In addition, the number of beaches reported has increased some four times the original number since EPA began collecting such information.
“Water quality monitoring leads to cleaner beaches and greater peace of mind for citizens and coastal communities,” said Assistant Administrator for Water Benjamin H. Grumbles. “Through President Bush’s commitment to clean water, four times as many beaches are monitored today as were a decade ago, protecting the health of both beach-goers and beach economies.”
Since EPA began collecting data, the number of beaches monitored has almost quadrupled to 4,025 for 2004, compared with 1,021 in 1997. Between 2004 and 2005 there was an increase of 451 beaches monitored. For the first time since the passage of the BEACH Act of 2000, today’s report includes data from all 35 coastal and Great Lakes states and territories covered under the act.
For the past six years, EPA has provided nearly $52 million in grants to 35 coastal and Great Lakes states and territories. The grants help improve water monitoring and fund public-information programs that alert beach-goers about the health of their beaches.
In addition, EPA is working to make information about beach water quality available faster and easier. New data-collection techniques among state and local partners will make the 2006 swimming season data more readily available to the public. EPA is in the process of completing new technology for assessing water quality at beaches so results are made available in hours rather than days. These new tests will allow beach managers to sample water in the morning and make fast but reliable decisions about the safety of beach waters the same day.
The beach-monitoring program is part of the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act. Coastal and Great Lakes states and territories must report to EPA on beach monitoring and notification data for their coastal recreation waters.