Contact Us


All News Releases By Date


EPA's Helicopter Monitors Beaches as Fourth of July Approaches; Samples to Date Show Clean Waters in New Jersey

Release Date: 07/02/2003
Contact Information:
(#03080) New York, New York -- With beach goers preparing to head to the shore for the Fourth of July holiday, EPA's surveillance helicopter is keeping an eye on coastal beaches and waters. EPA Regional Administrator Jane M. Kenny and U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg today climbed aboard EPA's chopper to observe the condition of coastal waters and beaches from Sandy Hook to Sea Bright, New Jersey. To date, samples collected have shown clean waters along the Jersey shore.

"As we get ready to celebrate the Fourth of July, the start of the prime season for swimming and other recreational activities at the Jersey shore, I want to assure New Jersey residents and visitors that these beaches are among the best monitored in the country. EPA is proud to work each year with other federal agencies, the state and local governments to protect them," said EPA Regional Administrator Kenny.

"The Coastal Crusader," the EPA helicopter, patrols the beaches and samples the coastal waters from Memorial Day through Labor Day. This is the thirtieth year of EPA's Summer Beach Water Quality Surveillance Program which collects information that, along with data collected by the states and local health departments, is used to protect millions of beach goers. EPA estimates that Americans make a total of 910 million trips to coastal areas each year, spending about $44 billion.

This season, to date, the helicopter monitoring program has collected 67 samples for bacteriological analyses, 21 samples for nutrients, 44 samples for dissolved oxygen analyses, and 32 samples for phytoplankton along the New Jersey coast and in the back bays. Only one bacteria count, 105 enterococci/per 100 milliliters of water, occurring at Shark River Inlet, was slightly above the federal standard of 104 enterococci/per 100 milliliters of water. No toxic species of algae have been observed along the NJ coast or in the back bays. Adequate levels of dissolved oxygen are critical to healthy ocean waters. Dissolved oxygen levels are good and few slicks of floatable debris have been reported in the NY/NJ Harbor.

During the summer months, EPA scientists aboard the "Coastal Crusader" take hundreds of water samples along the Long Island and New Jersey coastal ocean waters and New Jersey back bays, which are then analyzed in EPA's Edison, New Jersey laboratory; they also keep a watchful eye out for floating debris. Through partnership agreements with New York and New Jersey, additional samples are collected for the states and analyses are performed by state laboratories. The sampling results are shared with federal, state and local agencies to help them determine if beach closures are necessary. Debris slicks are immediately reported to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), which dispatches vessels to skim the debris from the water and prevent washups on bathing beaches.

EPA's helicopter, New Jersey and New York's surveillance aircraft and monitoring boats, and the Corps' and New York City skimmer vessels, form a network to monitor, immediately respond to and clean up any potential pollution problems that could affect beaches in New Jersey and New York.

The helicopter is also used regularly throughout the beach season to test for dissolved oxygen at points as far as nine miles east of the coastline. The helicopter and crew also conduct semi-monthly sampling for phytoplankton. Such sampling provides an early warning of noxious algae blooms that might threaten water quality and the sea life it supports.

In addition to this seasonal monitoring activity, EPA also has ongoing programs to identify and address problems in New Jersey's coastal waters. In October 2000, Congress passed a federal law called the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act (BEACH Act), introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senator Lautenberg. The law established a national program for monitoring beach water quality and notifying the public of unsafe conditions. In April, former Administrator Christie Whitman announced nearly $10 million in grants available to eligible states and territories to protect public health at the nation's beaches. The funds are targeted to improve water quality monitoring and notification of the public of beach warnings or closings. New Jersey has the opportunity to receive more than $280,000 under the program.

In addition, the New York/New Jersey Harbor, the Delaware Estuary and Barnegat Bay have all been designated by EPA as estuaries of national significance. As three of 28 estuaries nationally designated as such, they receive financial support from EPA that is used to bring together all segments of the watershed community to plan for the preservation and protection of these waters.

In 1987, the washup of floatable debris was responsible for the closing of 25 miles of New Jersey beaches in May and 50 miles of beaches in August. The following year, floatable materials were again responsible for closing 60 miles of beaches in New York. And bacterial contamination closed 836 ocean and bay beaches in New Jersey. New Jersey beaches have not been closed due to floatable debris since 1993.