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EPA Increases Beach Monitoring During New Jersey Government Shutdown; Takes to the Skies to Protect Jersey Shore

Release Date: 07/06/2006
Contact Information: Elias Rodriguez (212) 637-3664 or

(New York, NY) Demonstrating their ongoing commitment to protect the ocean for beach-goers, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Regional Administrator, Alan J. Steinberg, joined U.S. Representative Frank A. LoBiondo and Atlantic City Mayor Robert W. Levy to showcase the Agency’s annual beach monitoring program. Officials aboard the beach surveillance helicopter, the “Coastal Crusader,” scanned the coastal waters of New Jersey looking for floatable debris and oil slicks and gathered water samples to test the health of local waters to determine whether the levels of bacteria in the water are safe for the millions of people who flock to the beach every year.

EPA’s coastal and beach monitoring program is part of a cooperative initiative with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP). Each agency collects water samples once a week to test for bacteria; and they split the responsibility for aerial monitoring of the water for floatable debris and oil slicks – EPA monitors the NY/NJ Harbor and the NJDEP monitors the coastal beach areas. Due to New Jersey’s government shutdown, NJDEP has requested that EPA monitor the coastal beach areas as well, and EPA has agreed. EPA’s increased flights will enhance coverage of the coastline and beaches.

“On July 4th, for example, we adjusted our flight schedule to fly earlier in the morning and covered the entire coastal area looking for oil and floatable slicks. We’ve made the “Coastal Crusader” available for flights all of this week and over the weekend, as well, if the state is still shutdown,” stated Regional Administrator Steinberg.

The monitoring done by the local municipalities of the beaches is not affected by the state shutdown, they are still responsible for the water quality monitoring that determines the opening and closing of the beaches.

Each year, EPA gives out funds under the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act (Beach Act) to make monitoring programs more consistent nationwide, improve water quality testing at the beach, and help beach managers better inform the public about water quality problems. The Act authorizes EPA to award grants to help eligible states, tribes, and territories develop and implement beach water quality monitoring and notification programs. This year, EPA has allotted New Jersey $277,730, New York $348,740, Puerto Rico $328,450, and the U.S. Virgin Islands $303,180. Since 2001, over five million dollars have been appropriated for the region: New Jersey ($1.1 million), New York ($1.4 million), Puerto Rico ($1.3 million) and the U.S. Virgin Islands ($1.2 million) to monitor beach water quality and to inform the public about conditions.

EPA also uses the helicopter 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 sea life it supports. The sampling results are shared with federal, state and local agencies to help them determine if beach closures are necessary.

For photos of the helicopter and more information on EPA’s coastal water activities, visit: and