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EPA's Coastal Crusader Hits the Skies to Ensure Safe Beach Season

Release Date: 07/01/2004
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(#04108) New York, N.Y. -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) beach surveillance helicopter, the "Coastal Crusader," scanned the coastal waters of New Jersey today, gathering water samples for EPA's annual beach monitoring program.

EPA Regional Administrator Jane M. Kenny joined Ship Bottom Mayor, William Huelsenbeck, on the helicopter to evaluate the quality of Long Beach Island's coastal waters. This marks the twenty-eight year of EPA's annual summer helicopter monitoring program. Each summer, EPA takes samples of coastal waters to determine whether the levels of bacteria in the water are safe for the millions of people that flock to the beach every year.

"We want to ensure a healthy, happy beach season by protecting the health of the beach-going public," said Ms. Kenny. "Monitoring water quality gives us the vital information we need to do this."

In addition to taking water samples, EPA uses the Coastal Crusader to search for floating debris that can wash up on area beaches. EPA then shares its results with federal, state and local agencies to help local authorities decide whether there is any need to close the beaches. Data is also given to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which uses skimmer vessels to scrape debris from the surface water and ensure that no floating debris is washed ashore.

EPA uses the chopper throughout the beach season to test for dissolved oxygen as far as nine miles off the coastline. Ocean waters must meet certain levels of dissolved oxygen to ensure their health. In addition, EPA conducts semi-monthly sampling for phytoplankton. The samples provide an early warning of noxious algae blooms that threaten water quality and the sea life it supports.

"Statistics show that Americans take 910 million trips a year to coastal areas and spend around $44 million at these locations," said Kenny. "It is important to make sure that these areas are well protected and safe for adults and children."

Since 2001, New Jersey has received $627,000 to monitor beach water quality and to inform the public when there is a problem. These funds are allocated to New Jersey under the Beach Act and are subcontracted out to the counties to be used in the monitoring.