EPA grants to help states monitor and report conditions
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY —A new round of EPA grants totaling almost $10 million will help states monitor and assess the state of their beaches — something that’s sorely needed, according to the Surfrider Foundation’s State of the Beach report findings, which explains the challenges of tracking the condition of beaches around the country.
The EPA is also launching the new BEACON website to provide timely information on beach conditions, advisories and closures.
Inconsistencies in testing, closure and advisory standards, notification procedures and even the terminology used in regulations varies from state to state, creating a confusing picture for consumers. The federal BEACH Act was aimed at elimination some of the inconsistencies, but it will take time for jurisdictions to get on the same page.
In case you don’t live near a beach and you’re wondering what the problem is, the Natural Resource Defense Council’s 2011 Testing the Waters report indicates there were 24,091 beach closings and advisories in 2010 — the second-highest number since the NRDC started tracking stats 21 years ago.
The majority of beach advisories and closures in the United States are due to water test results indicating bacterial contamination, which can make people sick. Bacterial contamination comes from a variety of sources. Some examples are sewer overflows, untreated stormwater runoff, boating wastes, wildlife and pet waste, and malfunctioning septic systems.
During each swimming season, state and local health and environmental protection agencies monitor the quality of water at the nation’s beaches. When bacteria levels in the water are too high, these agencies notify the public by posting beach warnings or closing the beach.
The latest EPA grants will help local authorities monitor beach water quality and notify the public of conditions that may be unsafe for swimming. During the past 12 years, the EPA has awarded almost $111 million in grants, helping to triple the number of monitored beaches to more than 3,600 in 2010.
The agency also is launching a new website to post beach conditions in near real-time, updating information every two hours based on data provided by states, territories and tribes.
With the Web 2.0 ools users will be able to access to mapped location data for beaches and water monitoring stations, monitoring results for various pollutants such as bacteria and algae, and data on public notification of beach water quality advisories and closures.
For the first time, users can also access reports that combine notifications and water quality monitoring data. The enhanced system also uses enhanced map navigation and report display tools.
View EPA’s enhanced beach advisory and closing information: http://watersgeo.epa.gov/BEACON2/.