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EPA Announces New England Beach Initiative in New Hampshire; Kick Off Includes $205,00 Beach Monitoring Grant for Granite State

Release Date: 06/27/2002
Contact Information: Andrew Spejewski, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1014

BOSTON - Flanked by state and local officials at Hampton Beach, in New Hampshire, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Robert W. Varney today announced a Clean New England Beaches Initiative that includes $1 million in federal funds for improved beach monitoring, an increased focus on pollution assessment work, and designating nearly a dozen “Flagship” beaches across the region that will serve as models for improving beach water quality.

The initiative comes on the heels of 274 New England saltwater and freshwater beaches being closed at least one day last summer due to pollution, totaling more than 750 beach-days.

“While our waters are dramatically cleaner than they were 20 years ago, we still have too many beaches in New England that are closed too many days in the summer due to pollution,” Varney said. “And development can threaten even beaches like Hampton Beach that have not had recent problems. Today’s Clean New England Beaches Initiative will help improve these beaches, making them safer, cleaner and more enjoyable for millions of New England swimmers.”

In announcing the campaign, Varney awarded a $205,000 EPA grant to the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NH DES)to help improve its beach monitoring and assessment program. The grant is among more than $1 million being awarded this year to New England’s five coastal states for their beach monitoring programs. The funding was made possible by the Federal Beach Act approved by Congress in 2000.

“New Hampshire’s public beaches are some of the state’s most valued natural resources,” said Paul Currier, administrator of the N.H. Department of Environmental Services’ Watershed Protection Bureau. “We are very pleased to be receiving this significant financial grant from EPA, as it will help to expand a beach monitoring program that we have been conducting for a number of years. Among other things, the federal funding will allow us to increase the number of coastal beaches monitored from nine to thirteen as well as enhance our public educational capabilities, further protecting the health of our state’s beach visitors.”

Varney also announced the selection of Hampton Beach as one of ten Flagship Beaches in New England, and the only one in New Hampshire.

Under state law, swimming beaches must be closed, or advisories posted, when levels of indicator bacteria – which indicate the presence of fecal contamination – are too high. Polluted runoff and untreated sewage released into the water can contain bacteria, viruses and protozoans, some of which can cause minor illnesses such as gastroenteritis or more serious diseases such as hepatitis. Runoff can be contaminated from pet waste, wildlife, illicit connections and various other sources. Sources of sewage include leaking sewer pipes, failing septic systems, boats, and combined sewer overflows.

EPA’s Clean New England Beaches Initiative includes the following five elements, all aimed at reducing pollution at coastal beaches:

    • provide federal beach grants to boost water quality monitoring, pollution assessments and public notification about water quality
    • provide technical assistance - and, where appropriate, enforcement support – to local and state agencies to identify and reduce pollution sources, focusing primarily on non-point pollution sources
    • identify high-use “Flagship” beaches in each of the region’s coastal states for targeted attention through enhanced beach monitoring, assessments and pollution management
    • promote high-quality monitoring, assessment technologies and information sharing through a newly-created state/federal Beach Work Group on Closures and Monitoring
    • boost public involvement and education about water quality issues at coastal beaches
“These actions will improve monitoring at coastal beaches and improve public awareness about swimming conditions,” Varney said. “We’ll also see more pollution sources being eliminated, resulting in safer and cleaner beaches.”

The $205,000 grant awarded today to the NH DES will be used to improve state programs and to fund programs to assist towns and other agencies who manage public beaches. The programs will focus on improving the quality and frequency of water quality testing and ensuring prompt notification to the public when swimming conditions are unsafe

“Flagship” beaches were selected by each state as good models for other beach managers to learn from. All parties – federal, state, and local – have committed to reducing and eliminating closures due to pollution at the flagship beaches and distributing the lessons that can be learned from them. The selected beaches serve large populations; historically have had closures due to pollution; demonstrate high-quality beach monitoring and management practices, and show strong potential to effectively use state and federal resources to reduce closures.