Protecting swimmers from bacteria, viruses, and other contaminants in beach water requires leadership. Summer 2014 is filled with opportunities to improve water quality throughout the United States and to better protect people's health in the process. Everyone can now support a long-awaited rule to enhance protections for small streams and wetlands, which benefit beach water quality in two important ways, filtering out harmful contaminants and minimizing polluted runoff. Additionally, state and federal officials can start using the ample legal tools they have today to rein in stormwater pollution at the city and regional scale.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for ensuring that our recreational beach water is safe. Unfortunately, when the EPA adopted standards for allowable bacteria levels in late 2012, it missed a critical opportunity to protect the public from swimming in polluted water. However, the EPA also recently proposed guidance for grants given to states for water quality testing under the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act to use a new and important tool—the health-protective Beach Action Value (BAV)—to make swimming advisory decisions that more fully protect public health. The BAV is a more protective threshold than the national allowable bacteria levels used in previous years to trigger beach advisories. EPA considers the BAV to be a "conservative, precautionary tool for making beach notification decisions." As such, local beach managers and state officials responsible for beach policies should rely on it to adequately safeguard public health.
Previous Years of Testing the Waters
Testing the Waters 2013: A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches - Report (PDF)
Testing the Waters 2012: A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches - Report (PDF)
Testing the Waters 2011: A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches - Report (PDF)
Testing the Waters 2010: A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches - Report (PDF)
Testing the Waters 2009: A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches - Report (PDF)