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EPA Announces Major Grant to Improve Monitoring and Water Quality at New Hampshire Beaches

Release Date: 08/07/2003
Contact Information: Andrew Spejewski, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1014

BOSTON – At a press conference in Hampton State Beach today, the New England office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a $203,594 grant to the NH Department of Environmental Services to improve and expand water quality monitoring and public notification programs at the state’s coastal beaches.

Linda Murphy, director of EPA New England’s Office of Ecosystem Protection, made the announcement at Hampton Beach, one of 15 beaches now participating in New Hampshire’s Coastal Beach Program, a two-year-old effort to improve monitoring and overall water quality at state coastal beaches.

The EPA funding was made available through EPA’s Clean New England Beaches Initiative, which is making a total of $1.1 million available this summer to the region’s five coastal states.

In New Hampshire last summer and so far this summer, there has been only one saltwater beach that was issued a swimming advisory due to elevated bacteria levels. The advisory took place on June 20 this year at New Castle Town Beach. Bacteria pollution has been detected at relatively low levels, however, at some of the state’s other coastal beaches this summer.

“New Hampshire is fortunate to have some of the cleanest coastal beaches in New England, but that does not mean we can be complacent about pollution threats that require attention,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England Office. “Even in New Hampshire where waters are relatively pristine, we must work to eliminate dirty storm runoff and other pollution that can lead to unhealthy swimming conditions."

“New Hampshire prides itself with its clean coastal waters,” added Michael Nolin, commissioner of the NH Department of Environmental Services. “The coastal beaches are the top choice for summer recreation, providing valuable resources for swimming, boating, fishing or enjoying the aesthetic qualities of the ocean. This EPA beach grant provides for increased monitoring and an elevated level of public health protection. New research efforts will help identify bacteria sources to public beaches and aid in management practices that reduce these sources to our beaches.” EPA has awarded New Hampshire nearly $500,000 since 2001 to support and expand the state’s beach monitoring programs. The state awarded New Hampshire $58,675 in EPA funds in 2001, and $204,918 last year to boost its efforts to monitor and clean local beaches, while keeping the public informed about beach pollution and monitoring.

“Proactive programs like these help coastal states prepare for future water quality challenges that include increased pollution sources from increasing coastal development,” said Jody Connor, Limnology Center Director for NH DES.

EPA has made a total of $10 million available this year to help 35 states and territories improve water quality monitoring at beaches and public notification about pollution problems. The funding was made possible by the federal Beach Act approved by Congress in 2000.

Launched last summer, EPA’s Clean New England Beaches Initiative selected 11 flagship beaches across New England, including Hampton Beach in New Hampshire. These beaches were chosen as models for other beach managers across the region. The selections were based on several criteria: serving large populations; a history of beach closures due to pollution; a high quality monitoring program already in place; and a strong potential for state and federal resources to be well used.

Twenty percent of the New England coastal beaches that reported water quality data to EPA – 72 of 363 beaches – were closed or posted with warning signs at least one day last summer because of pollution. These 72 beaches had a total of 650 beach closure days. Last summer's results are a dramatic improvement from 2001 when 102 beaches – out of the 324 beaches reporting – had at least one closure day and a total of 1,388 beach closure days.

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.