Millions of Americans Will Be Safer in the Water; House Approves Beach Water Safety Bill

Legislation Would Fund Identification of Pollution Sources and Speed Up Notification

WASHINGTON (April 17, 2008) – The U.S. House of Representatives last night passed the Beach Protection Act (H.R. 2537), which provides federal funds to beachwater managers to protect the public from getting sick from swimming in polluted waters. This bill requires the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to approve a rapid testing method for beachwater monitoring that promptly notifies the public of unsafe water. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) advocated for both of these improvements to public health protections for beachgoers. 

The Beach Protection Act also would reauthorize and increase the funding for state and local beach water monitoring programs under the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act, including for the first time providing funding for beachwater managers to identify the sources of beach water pollution. Other major public health victories in the bill include required notification of environmental agency of violations of beach water standards and mandatory closing and advisory determinations within 24 hours of finding a violation. 

Other provisions study the effects of climate change on pollution in coastal recreational waters, a requirement that EPA update monitoring protocols for mercury, and a requirement that identified sources of beachwater pollution to be posted on the web within 24 hours. 

The following is a statement from Nancy Stoner, director of the Clean Water Project at NRDC, on the passage of the Beach Protection Act: 

"If enacted, this legislation would make every parent more comfortable about allowing children to swim at the beach. Americans shouldn't have to choose between swimming in sewage or baking on the beach. 

“This legislation would increase to $40 million the grant money authorized annually to states through 2012, and would expand the scope of the grants to also include pollution source tracking and prevention efforts. 

“Beach water pollution is a threat to human health and coastal economies. According to NRDC’s last beach water quality report, there were 25,000 beach closings and advisories – a record-breaker - because beach waters have dangerously high levels of bacteria contamination from human and animal waste. The pollution at these beaches most often comes from contaminated stormwater or inadequately treated sewage. 

“The Senate introduced a bipartisan version of the bill last week that includes many of the same provisions as its House counterpart, but it also provides funds for cleaning up indentified sources of beach water pollution. This would be a huge win for public health.”