WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced that it will provide $9.8 million in grants to 38 states, territories and tribes to help protect the health of swimmers at America’s beaches. The agency also launched an improved website for beach advisories and closings, which will allow the public to more quickly and easily access the most current water quality and pollution testing information for more than 6,000 U.S. beaches.
The website, called BEACON, has the capability to update as frequently as every two hours based on new data provided by states, territories and tribes. Users will have access to mapped location data for beaches and water monitoring stations, monitoring results for various pollutants such as bacteria and algae, and data on public notification of beach water quality advisories and closures. For the first time, users can also access reports that combine notifications and water quality monitoring data. The enhanced system also uses enhanced map navigation and report display tools.
The majority of beach advisories and closures in the United States are due to water test results indicating bacterial contamination, which can make people sick. Bacterial contamination comes from a variety of sources. Some examples are sewer overflows, untreated stormwater runoff, boating wastes, wildlife and pet waste, and malfunctioning septic systems.
During 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.
The grants will help local authorities monitor beach water quality and notify the public of conditions that may be unsafe for swimming. This is the 12th year that EPA is providing beach grant funds, bringing the total amount EPA has made available to nearly $111 million.
As a result, the number of monitored beaches has more than tripled to more than 3,600 in 2010. Grant applications must be received within 60 days of publication of EPA’s notice in the Federal Register. EPA expects to award the grants later this year.
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