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New Funding Helps Ensure Healthy Beaches in Massachusetts

Release Date: 06/30/06
Contact Information: Paula Ballentine, (617) 918-1027

Release Date: 06/30/2006
(Carson Beach, Boston MA. – June 30, 2006) – As the long-anticipated Massachusetts summer beach season begins, EPA officials presented $254,440 in new funding to help ensure that Massachusetts’ beaches have robust monitoring conducted to evaluate water quality while people enjoy the warm weather by the coast.

The funding is used by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MA DPH) to improve and expand the water quality monitoring and public notification programs at state coastal beaches.

"Along with our state partners, we’ve made progress cleaning our waters in Boston Harbor and across New England, but there are still too many days in the summer when families cannot swim due to poor water quality,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “Especially in urban areas, we must work to eliminate pollution that leads to unhealthy swimming conditions. This funding for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health will help reduce the number of days our beaches are closed and protect the health of our citizens.”

EPA presented this year’s beach funding to the DPH at a ceremony at Carson Beach in South Boston. The South Boston beaches are the focus of a historic agreement reached last summer among the EPA, the Commonwealth, and the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA), which will virtually eliminate sewer overflows that have plagued the beaches for decades. “This agreement provides the opportunity to go from the dirtiest harbor in the country to one of the cleanest in one generation,” said Fred Laskey, executive director of the MWRA.

The $270 million agreement, which was ratified by the federal court in Boston on June 30, 2005, requires construction of a storage tunnel to capture sewer overflows in South Boston, where overflows occur as often as 21 times in a typical year.

Since 2001, EPA has provided over $6 million to New England states and nearly $1.3 million to Massachusetts alone, under the Congressionally-mandated Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act. This program helps states with shorelines along the nation's coasts or around the Great Lakes to develop and maintain programs to test water quality and other environmental conditions at beaches, and provide public notice if unhealthy levels of bacteria and/or other contamination are present.

The EPA funding was made available through EPA's Clean New England Beaches Initiative, which is making $1.14 million available this summer to the region's five coastal states.

“Swimming in water with microbial contamination can cause illness, “ added Massachusetts Associate Public Health Commissioner Suzanne Condon. “We regulate beach water quality in order to protect public health. EPA’s support and partnership with us in this overall effort to improve management practices and conditions at local saltwater beaches will help us protect the health of Massachusetts’ residents.”

With six years of funding, and a lot of hard work, beach monitoring and notification are expanding significantly in Massachusetts. In 2001, only nine of the 16 coastal beaches in the State were routinely monitored, and public notification was also limited. Now, fully 15 of the 16 coastal beaches are monitored regularly, with the remaining beach on Star Island not monitored because of its remote location and low use.

Because of EPA's commitment to clean water, the number of beaches monitored has more than tripled nationwide in the past decade. Beach water monitoring helps identify what needs to be done - such as warnings and more importantly, actions to prevent closings - when bacteria concentrations reach unsafe levels. EPA is also developing new technologies to yield faster test results. With the new tests, local health agencies will be able to act more quickly if a beach has to be closed for swimming.

Additionally, as part of its public-awareness efforts, EPA has created an interactive Web site for kids that includes games, information on how to protect beaches and beach safety.

More information about EPA’s Clean New England Beaches Initiative (

Massachusetts Water Resources Authority:

Massachusetts Department of Public Health:

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