Topic: Clean Beaches
Date: June 12, 2009
Host: Hi, I'm David Sternberg of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Mid-Atlantic region, and welcome to Environment Matters – our series of podcasts.
(Sounds of waves in the background)
With summer in full swing, Americans are loading up their beach chairs, slathering on the sunscreen and heading to the shore, ready to ride the waves or just relax under a sprawling umbrella.
Last year, beaches were open for use 95 percent of the possible time, and EPA and the states are working year-round to ensure that beach closure signs are rare sightings.
With me today to discuss beach protection is Denise Hakowski, EPA's regional beach program coordinator.
Host: Denise, what does EPA do to help keep our beaches clean?
Denise: EPA works closely with the states to identify and stop pollution that could impact the beaches. Over the last 30 years, EPA has helped states and towns through billions of dollars to build wastewater treatment plants, to fix sewers increase beach monitoring and, in particular, notify the public about beach quality. We're also doing a lot of research to help identify better ways of protecting health from water-related problems at the beaches.
Host: What are the primary sources of water pollution at beaches?
Denise: Pollution at beaches could result from a variety of sources, particularly sewage overflows. If you have a heavy summer storm, it washes pollution into the water. Sewage treatment plants that aren't working properly as well as boating waste and septic systems.
Host: How would you describe the state of our beaches?
Denise: Generally, nationwide, our beaches are very clean. In 2008, we only lost about 5% of the potential beach days. And when there are closings or advisories, they may only last a day or two.
Host: How do we find out if the beach and water are okay for swimming?
Denise: To find out more information about beaches near you, visit the EPA beaches Web site which can be found at www.epa.gov/Region3 and click on the beaches link. This site will also have links to your state and local Web sites for the most up-to-date information on any beach closings in your area.
Host: What can citizens do to help protect our beaches?
Denise: Well, if you have a septic system, you should make sure that it's operating correctly. But, people can also make sure that they don't pour anything on the ground, or down the storm drains, because the polluted water may drain to the beach.
Clean up after your dogs, and throw away any trash while you are at the beach. And also, if there are facilities, please use the public facilities.
Host: Thanks, Denise. And while we're talking about beaches, EPA advises keeping yourself safe from the sun's rays. Always use sunscreen, SP 15 or higher, and apply it every two hours, especially after you get out of the water.
Thanks for joining us on Environment Matters, our series of environmental podcasts.