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EPA Launches Annual Efforts to Protect Area Beaches, Coastal Waters and New York/New Jersey Harbor

Release Date: 05/28/2009
Contact Information: John Senn (212) 637-3667,

(New York, N.Y.) With the beginning of the beach season, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is again undertaking a beach and harbor protection program, comprising surveillance, sampling and funding activities to safeguard beaches and bays in New Jersey and New York, and the health of the people who enjoy them. Using its helicopter, ships and cutting-edge technologies, EPA’s initiatives and scientific assessments will go farther in 2009 than ever before.

“Thanks to EPA’s beach and harbor protection programs, New Jersey and New York beaches will continue to provide outstanding recreational opportunities for millions of people this summer and an economic boost to local communities,” said EPA Acting Regional Administrator George Pavlou. “The health of these vital areas will be constantly monitored throughout the summer.”

Working together with other federal, state and local agencies, EPA’s program operates seven days a week. The results from EPA’s prior assessment of a new rapid method of testing beach water for bacteria that cause gastrointestinal illness show promise as a beach monitoring tool. Conventional methods require 24 hours for results, while the new method can provide results in as little as three hours after sample collection. EPA will continue its assessment of this rapid test technology this summer to further refine this new method and evaluate results under various environmental conditions.

EPA’s comprehensive, science-based beach and coastal water program has many components, including shellfish bed water quality monitoring, grants to states to help with their beach monitoring and public notification programs, and the development of pollution discharge limits, called total maximum daily loads, for the New York/New Jersey Harbor and the New York Bight. This summer, EPA will use its boats as well as the Ocean Survey Vessel BOLD to collect water samples and further assess the influence of nutrients on dissolved oxygen levels. As it does every summer, EPA scientists will fly over the New York/New Jersey Harbor in EPA’s helicopter, the Coastal Crusader, searching for floating debris, and it will again collect water samples near shellfish beds and along the New Jersey coast for dissolved oxygen.

Highlights of EPA’s Coastal Water and Beach Program:
Floatables Surveillance Overflights:
EPA and its federal, state and local partners have begun the 21st year of implementing the floatables action plan, developed to spot and collect floating debris. Throughout the summer, EPA’s helicopter, the Coastal Crusader, will fly over the New Jersey/New York Harbor Complex six days a week to identify slicks of floating debris and to coordinate cleanups with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and the Passaic Valley Sewage Commission in an effort to prevent wash-ups on the beaches of New Jersey and New York. EPA also reports any observed oil slicks to the U.S. Coast Guard for cleanup. Additionally, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) will fly on Sundays into the harbor to ensure coverage seven days a week.

Rapid Test Method Research:
EPA will continue its assessment of rapid test technology this summer to further refine this new method and evaluate results using multiple test instruments.

Shellfish Bed Monitoring Program:
The EPA helicopter will be used to collect water quality samples for both the NJDEP and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) to help them monitor the health of shellfish beds. EPA scientists will collect water samples along the New Jersey coast and in Raritan Bay, Sandy Hook Bay, Barnegat Bay, Great Bay, Delaware Bay and along the Long Island Coast from Rockaway to Shinnecock.

Dissolved Oxygen Monitoring:
New Jersey coastal waters are listed as impaired due to low dissolved oxygen concentrations. To continue to monitor for trends, EPA will use its helicopter to take samples at 20 stations located one to three miles off the coast of New Jersey and test for dissolved oxygen and temperature. These samples will be taken four times in late summer when dissolved oxygen levels are expected to be at their lowest. EPA has also funded the purchase by NJDEP of an underwater glider which can continuously record dissolved oxygen levels as well as other pollutants of interest.

Beach Monitoring and Notification Program:
The state of New Jersey and local health departments have received nearly $2.4 million dollars to date in EPA grants through the federal BEACH Act; New York State has received $2.9 million. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection will receive an additional $449,000 in 2009 to continue its beach monitoring and notification program and to conduct intensive sanitation surveys at high-priority beaches. New York will receive $519,000 this year.

Total Maximum Daily Loads and Continuing Assessment:
In combating pollution, it is critical to set limits for how much of a particular pollutant a body of water can take. These limits, called total maximum daily loads (TMDLs), are currently being developed for nutrients going into the NY/NJ Harbor and the New York Bight. Nutrients can cause phytoplankton blooms which die and decompose resulting in low dissolved oxygen and EPA will maintain its summer-long assessments of nutrient dissolved oxygen conditions within the New York Bight. EPA will use its boats to assess the water and collect water samples to determine what impact nutrients have on the levels of dissolved oxygen in the water. EPA’s Ocean Survey Vessel BOLD, which performs various monitoring activities in ocean waters across the country throughout the year, will assist with these efforts in August and September.

For more information on EPA’s diverse coastal water activities, visit: