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EPA Announces Funds to Improve Monitoring and Water Quality at Rhode Island Beaches

Release Date: 07/02/04
Contact Information: Contact: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office (617-918-1008)

For Immediate Release: July 2, 2004; Release # 04-07-02

NARRAGANSETT, RI – Flanked by Rhode Island Governor Donald L. Carcieri and the state’s top health and environmental officials, the US Environmental Protection Agency’s New England Office today announced a $213,000 grant to the RI Department of Health to improve and expand the water quality monitoring and public notification programs at state coastal beaches.

Ira Leighton, deputy regional administrator of EPA’s New England Office, made the announcement at Scarborough State Beach, one of 72 licensed coastal beaches in Rhode Island sampled regularly under the state’s beach monitoring program to ensure that swimming conditions are safe. More than 2,500 water samples were collected and analyzed last summer alone.

The EPA funding was made available through EPA’s Clean New England Beaches Initiative, which is making a total of $1.2 million available this summer to the region’s five coastal states.
Across New England last year, about one fifth of the region’s 1,300 coastal beaches were closed at least one day last summer due to pollution, for a total of about 1,100 missed beach days. That’s a tangible improvement from 2001, when the region’s coastal beaches had nearly 1,400 beach closure days.

Rhode Island had 380 beach closure days at 19 coastal beaches last summer. The vast majority of the closure days were at the state’s seven Upper Narragansett Bay beaches.

“We’ve made progress cleaning our waters across New England, but there are still far too many days when families cannot swim because the water is not safe,” said Leighton, speaking at today’s news conference. “Even at Scarborough Beach, where the waters are relatively pristine, we must work to eliminate dirty storm runoff and other pollution that leads to unhealthy swimming conditions.”

EPA has awarded Rhode Island nearly $700,000 since 2001 to support and expand the state’s beach monitoring programs. The funding was made possible by the Federal Beach Act approved by Congress in 2000.

Launched two summers ago, EPA’s New England Beaches Initiative selected 11 flagship beaches across New England, including Warren Town Beach, Goddard State Park and Newport’s King Park Swim Area in Rhode Island. These beaches were chosen as models for other beach managers and are based on several criteria: serving large populations; a history of beach closures due to pollution; high quality monitoring already in place; and a strong potential for state and federal resources to be used.

Polluted runoff and untreated sewage released into the water can contain bacteria, viruses, and protozoans, some of which can cause minor illnesses such as gastroenteritis or more serious diseases such as hepatitis. Runoff can be contaminated from pet waste, wildlife, illicit connections and various other sources. Sources of sewage include leaking sewer pipes, failing septic systems, boats and combined sewer overflows.

Related Information:
RA Column: Pollution Reduction Efforts Paying Off for New England's Beaches
Beaches and Coasts
Storm Water Topics
Non-Point Source
Combined Sewer Overflows
Water Quality