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EPA Administrator Visits Quincy Beach to Tout Improved Water Quality at NE Beaches

Release Date: 06/13/2003
Contact Information: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1008

BOSTON – EPA Administrator Christie Whitman today visited Wollaston Beach in Quincy today to announce significant water quality improvements at New England coastal beaches last summer and that an additional $10 million of federal funds is available to states around the country to boost their beach monitoring programs.

Flanked by Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Quincy Mayor William J. Phelan, Whitman announced a 50 percent reduction in pollution-related ‘closure days' at the region's 350-plus coastal beaches last summer compared to 2001. Among the swimming areas seeing big improvements were the Boston Harbor beaches and Quincy's Wollaston Beach, which was closed nine days last summer compared to 22 days in 2001.

"These dramatic water quality improvements are testament to the hard work of state and local officials all across the country to make our nation's beaches safer, cleaner and more enjoyable for millions of Americans," Whitman said, adding that last summer's dry weather was another contributing factor. "The City of Quincy and Commonwealth of Massachusetts deserve special kudos for their work in making Wollaston Beach substantially cleaner and safer for the thousands of urban residents who use the beach every day."

"This is a great day for all of us who treasure our beaches and other natural resources," said Quincy Mayor Phelan. "We are grateful from the support of our representatives in Washington and at the state, as well as to the hundreds of volunteers and activists who have moved this project forward. Governor Whitman's presence here today is a clear indication of both the importance of this project and the progress we have made thus far. I am committed to continuing that progress."

Whitman announced that about $10 million is available in 2003 to help 35 states and territories improve water quality monitoring at beaches and public notification about pollution problems. About $1.1 million of that funding is available to New England's five coastal states, including $257,000 that is expected to be awarded to Massachusetts once the state's application requirements are completed at the end of June.

This is the third year that EPA has provided beach monitoring grants to coastal states and territories. The funding was made possible by the passage of the federal Beach Protection Act in 2000.

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. (A closure day is a day when a beach is either closed or posted with a warning sign due to pollution.)

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.

Despite more beaches reporting, 169 in 2001 versus 199 in 2002, Massachusetts coastal beaches saw a near 25 percent drop in beach closure days last summer, from 647 in 2001 to 503 days in 2002. For Boston Harbor area beaches, which includes beaches in Revere, Winthrop, Boston, Quincy, Weymouth and Hull, the total number of closure days decreased from 204 in 2001 to 97 days in 2002.

Whitman credited the City of Quincy and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for their aggressive actions to improve water quality at Wollaston Beach, including a $12 million local appropriation to replace over 20,000 linear feet of leaking sewer pipes beneath 24 streets near Wollaston Beach and the upgrading of two wastewater pumping stations that serve the Wollaston Beach area. Whitman also praised the Commonwealth, which operates Wollaston and other Boston Harbor beaches, for extensive aesthetic improvements, including a nearly-completed $3 million seawall project along Wollaston Beach.

Wollaston Beach is one of three Massachusetts beaches designated as "Flagship" beaches last year by EPA's New England Office as part of its Clean New England Beaches Initiative. Flagship beaches are designed to serve as models for improving beach water quality. The other two flagship beaches in Massachusetts are Provincetown Harbor Beach and the Salem City Beaches