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With Summer Approaching, EPA Offers Massachusetts $256,580 to Monitor Coastal Beaches

Release Date: 06/16/2005
Contact Information:

Contact: Sheryl Rosner, EPA Office of Public Affairs, (617) 918-1865,

For Immediate Release: June 16, 2005; Release # sr050613

BOSTON - At a press conference today at one of Boston Harbor's beaches, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a $256,580 grant to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) to improve the water quality monitoring and public notification programs at state coastal beaches.

EPA's New England Office made the announcement at Edgewater Beach in Quincy, one of more than 500 coastal beaches in Massachusetts sampled regularly by the state's beach monitoring program to ensure that swimming conditions are safe. More than 7,000 water samples were collected and analyzed last summer alone. Eight years ago, the state was collecting water samples at only 325 coastal beach locations.

The EPA funding was made available through EPA's Clean New England Beaches Initiative, which is making a total of $1.15 million available this summer to the region's five coastal states.
Across New England last year, about one fourth of the region's 1,000 coastal beaches were closed at least one day last summer due to pollution, for a total of about 1,000 missed beach days. That's a tangible improvement from 2001, when the region's saltwater beaches had nearly 1,400 beach closure days.

Since 2001, when EPA funding became available to states, Massachusetts has seen a overall downward trend in the number of closures at marine beaches The reporting of beach information for local communities has dramatically increased thus providing more reliable and higher quality data for the coastal areas. One example of a beach that has seen water quality improvements is Edgewater Beach in Quincy where beach exceedances dropped from 20 percent in 2002 to 8 percent in 2004.

"We've made progress cleaning our waters in Boston Harbor and across New England, but there are still too many days in the summer when families cannot swim due to poor water quality," said Linda Murphy, Director of EPA's Office of Ecosystem Protection, speaking at today's news conference. "Especially in heavily urbanized areas we must work to eliminate dirty storm water runoff and other pollution that leads to unhealthy swimming conditions."

"Swimming in water with microbial contamination can cause illness," added Massachusetts Public Health Commissioner Paul Cote, Jr. "We regulate beach water quality in order to protect public health. EPA's support and partnership with us in this overall effort to improve management practices and conditions at local saltwater beaches will help to protect the health of Massachusetts residents."

EPA has awarded Massachusetts over $1 million since 2001 to support and expand the state's beach monitoring programs. The funding was made possible by the Federal Beach Act approved by Congress in 2000.

Launched four summers ago, EPA's Clean New England Beaches Initiative selected 11 flagship beaches across New England, including Wollaston Beach in Quincy, Ryder Street Beach in Provincetown and Willow's Pier Beach in Salem. The beaches were chosen as models for other beach managers and are based on several criteria: serving large populations; a history of beach closures due to pollution; high quality monitoring already in place; and a strong potential for state and federal resources to be used.

Over the past several years, work has been done on a variety of projects to improve the water quality at all of these Flagship beaches. At Wollaston Beach in Quincy and Ryder Street Beach in Provincetown, for example, sewers and drainage pipes have been rebuilt and other infrastructure improvements have been made in the area of the beaches. This has resulted in a reduction in the number of exceedences. At Salem's Willows Pier Beach, the number of samples that exceeded the standard has also been greatly reduced. This improvement can be attributed to the use of best management practices by the city of Salem.

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.

For more information about EPA's Clean New England Beaches Initiative, visit the agency's web site at:

For information about swimming conditions at Massachusetts beaches,
visit the MA DPH web site at: Click icon for EPA disclaimer.

Related Information:
Beaches and Coasts
Clean Marine Engines
Storm Water Topics
Non-Point Source
Combined Sewer Overflows