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HomeNewsArchivesEPA Gives Territory $306,000 for Beach Monitoring

EPA Gives Territory $306,000 for Beach Monitoring

The Planning and Natural Resources Department will receive a total of $306,000 in 2011 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to pay for its beach water quality monitoring program.

While the territory receives funding yearly, this year’s $306,000 includes $2,814 in supplemental funding this year, Anita Nibbs, environmental program manager at the Planning and Natural Resources Department’s water quality program, said.

“This year some additional money was allotted by Congress,” Nibbs said.

Last year, the territory was expected to receive $304,000.

She said the territory’s funding is more than many states because it has year-round beach weather. However, Puerto Rico received the smallest amount of funding with $123,000. No one returned a phone call from EPA requesting more information.

The money pays for weekly water quality monitoring at 43 beaches across the territory. This week’s monitoring showed that all 43 beaches are safe. The results are issued every Friday in a press release, but Nibbs said that plans are in the works to put up permanent signs at each beach; these can indicate either safe for swimming or not safe for swimming.

The department does not close the beaches, leaving it up to the discretion of those using the beach to decide if they want to swim in a beach deemed unsafe, Planning spokesman Jamal Nielsen said.

Nielsen said that the Friday press releases usually include the cause of the problem if the beach is unsafe. They could include rains or sewage issues.

He added that if contamination is found in the first round of testing, the water is tested again to make sure the results are accurate.

Planning hires a contractor to sample and test the water, Nibbs said.

According to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency press release, the agency is providing almost $10 million in grants to 37 states, territories and tribes to help protect swimmers and beachgoers at America’s beaches. The grants will help local authorities monitor beach water quality and notify the public of conditions that may be unsafe for swimming.

Florida got the most money, with a total of $539,000. California was next with $524,000 in funding.

The press release indicated the grants have enabled states and territories to more than double the number of beaches they monitor since 2003. This continues EPA’s efforts to help beach managers provide consistent public health protection and up-to-date information about local beach conditions.

“EPA’s grants are helping states monitor their beaches and providing beachgoers with information to make healthy decisions,” Peter S. Silva, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water, said. “Increased public information about beach water quality also serves as a motivator for people to identify sources of contamination and to take action.”

Each swimming season, state and local health and environmental protection agencies monitor the quality of water at the nation’s beaches. When bacteria levels in the water are too high, these agencies notify the public by posting beach warnings or closing the beach. In 2007, an estimated 96 million people made at least one visit to a U.S. ocean beach, spending a total of 1.4 billion days at ocean beaches.

This is the 11th year that EPA is providing beach grant funds, bringing the total amount EPA has made available to nearly $102 million since Congress passed the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act of 2000. Through this funding, the number of monitored beaches has almost quadrupled from about 1,000 in 1997 to more than 3,800 in 2009.

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