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With Summer Approaching, EPA Offers Massachusetts $57,000 to Monitor Coastal Beaches

Release Date: 05/25/2001
Contact Information: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office (617-918-1008)

BOSTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced that it is making $57,000 grants available to each of the five New England coastal states to help boost water quality monitoring efforts at New England beaches.

The money, the first ever set aside by EPA for beach monitoring, is being offered as part of the federal Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act that was signed into law last October. This law requires states with coastal beaches to adopt consistent standards for pollutants and authorizes EPA to make grants to help states develop programs to better monitor and to notify the public about water quality at beaches.

"For the first time, we are making federal funds available to states specifically to help protect public health at the nation's beaches," said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman, in announcing the availability of nearly $2 million in grants to coastal states and Great Lakes states across the country.

"These funds will provide much-needed support to states' efforts to improve water quality monitoring at beaches where citizens swim, fish and boat," added Ira Leighton, acting regional administrator of EPA's New England Office. "Monitoring pollution levels at local beaches is an important step towards ensuring the public's safety and improving the health of our region's coastline. The public has a right to know whether the water they are swimming in is safe."

Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine and New Hampshire have indicated they will be applying for the funds.

"These funds will allow public health staff to take a major step forward in the department's overall mission of disease prevention," said Howard Koh, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Health, which is responsible for monitoring water quality in the Commonwealth.

Massachusetts already has a Beaches Bill, which passed last summer. The state law requires that all of the state's nearly 1,000 beaches be tested at least once a week with a scientifically-accurate test and, if they are found to be unsafe for swimming, posted with a warning sign. From 1991 through 1998, there were at least 828 beach closings or advisories in coastal areas of the state.

Disease-causing microorganisms in contaminated waters can cause a wide range of diseases, including gastroenteritis; dysentery; hepatitis; ear, nose, and throat problems; and respiratory illness. The consequences of these swimming-associated illnesses can be greater for children, elderly people, and those with weakened immune systems.

More information on beach monitoring is available at EPA's web site: