WASHINGTON (March 28, 2007) -- The Environmental Protection Agency’s failure to update public health standards for beachwater quality violates the law, according to a federal judge’s ruling issued in court last week. The decision is the result of a lawsuit filed last August by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in Los Angeles.
“EPA’s delays in setting new standards are unacceptable,” said Nancy Stoner, director of NRDC's Clean Water Project. “The agency must act quickly now to protect the millions of people who run the risk of getting sick from contaminated beachwater every year.”
NRDC filed suit after the EPA missed the Congressionally mandated deadline of October 2005 to revise outdated health standards for beachwater quality. The agency now claims it will not be able to finish updating the standards -- as required by the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act of 2000 (BEACH Act) -- until at least 2011. This leaves millions of Americans swimming at beaches where the water may be contaminated with harmful viruses and bacteria from sewage and storm overflows.
In the judge’s opinion signed last week, EPA failed to meet a requirement under the BEACH Act to update water quality standards. According to the judge, the BEACH Act “imposes a non-discretionary duty that EPA was obligated, but failed, to abide by.” (The Court’s order finding EPA in violation is available at http://docs.nrdc.org/water/wat_07032301A.pdf
). Further proceedings in the lawsuit will now address the appropriate remedy for EPA’s violations of the law.
Current beachwater quality standards, which were set in 1986, use outdated monitoring standards and testing methods that do not provide timely or comprehensive information to beachgoers about their risk of getting waterborne illnesses.
An estimated 7 million Americans are sickened by contaminated recreational and drinking water every year.