Safer water at nation's beaches: New rule to protect against pathogens

As part of the Clean Beaches Plan, EPA has issued a proposed regulation to improve standards for water quality monitoring at our nation's beaches. EPA acted to ensure that more protective health-based standards are in place in all states and territories bordering Great Lakes or ocean waters.

"We are working as partners with the states and territories to promote scientifically strong, defensible standards for coastal and Great Lakes recreational waters," said Acting Assistant Administrator Ben Grumbles. "States have made good progress over the last several months. We expect this to continue, but in the meantime, we are ensuring that the public is protected by having federal standards in place."

Of the 35 states and territories that have coastal or Great Lakes recreational waters, ten have already adopted EPA's recommended criteria for all their coastal recreational waters and 17 states are in the process of adopting these criteria. Other states have adopted the criteria for portions of their waters, while a small number have yet to take action. EPA will exclude from the final federal regulation any state or territory that adopts these more protective health-based criteria. The proposal has a 30-day comment period and EPA will issue a final standard in early Fall.

The Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act of 2000 requires coastal states and states bordering the Great Lakes to adopt EPA's most current bacteria criteria by April 10, 2004 to better protect beach goers from harmful pathogens. The Act requires EPA to propose federal standards for the state's coastal or Great Lakes waters for states who have failed to meet the deadline. Specifically, for these states, EPA is proposing E. coli and enterococci criteria for their coastal recreational waters. These bacteria do not directly cause illness, but are good indicators of harmful pathogens in waterbodies.

The Administration's Clean Beaches Plan includes grant funding to all BEACH Act states and territories to ensure continued monitoring of the nation's beaches and public notification of beach closures and advisories. These funds are designed to ensure the protection of public health and to improve information on the quality of waters at the nation's beaches. 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.

Information about the beach criteria proposal, a list of states and their status as of July 1, 2004, and the Agency's Clean Beaches Plan is available at:


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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