EPA Announces $1.1+ Million in BEACH Act Grants to New England States
BOSTON — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced funding to carry out beach water quality monitoring and public notification programs in the five coastal New England states. EPA is awarding a total of $1,111,000 between for Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire to assist in these efforts.
The announcement came on Scarborough State Beach in Narragansett, Rhode Island, where U.S. Senator Jack Reed, and senior Rhode Island officials joined EPA Acting Regional Administrator Deb Szaro to emphasize the importance of federal funding to assist EPA’s partners with local monitoring of bacteria levels, which can become too high for safe swimming, and efforts to notify the public of potential health risks.
"Here in New England we are fortunate to have strong partnerships between federal, state and local officials, who are all committed to effective collaboration to ensure we are protecting public health and the environment," said EPA New England Acting Regional Administrator Deb Szaro. "New England’s beach season is short and sweet, and especially after a year of social distancing due to the pandemic, we are very proud that this funding will help public health officials to quickly share water quality information with the public."
EPA anticipates awarding BEACH Act grants to assist the New England states monitor beaches for fecal indicator bacteria, maintain and operate public notification systems, identify local pollution sources, and report results of monitoring and notification activities to EPA and the public. When elevated levels of bacteria are detected, this funding supports beach warning or beach closing notifications to protect public health.
Since 2002, EPA has been able to provide $22.5 Million to the five New England states for water quality monitoring and public dissemination of those findings under the BEACH Act funding. The current (FY2021) funding for New England states for under the BEACH Act announced today includes:
Connecticut Department of Public Health $216,600
Maine Department of Environmental Protection $245,600
Massachusetts Department of Public Health $245,600
New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services $196,600
Rhode Island Department of Health $206,600
"Water quality is so important for drinking, swimming, fishing, and tourism. I helped support, pass, and fund the BEACH Act because it helps states and local communities team up to protect our waters and the people and ecosystem that depend on them," said U.S. Senator Jack Reed, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee. "Testing water quality, collecting data, and publicly releasing the results keeps the government accountable for maintaining good water quality. This program ensures people are informed when temporary beach closures are warranted, and it’s a smart investment in protecting public health and the health of our waterways."
"The Ocean State is home to some of the nation’s finest beaches, and I’m doing all that I can to keep it that way," said U.S. Congressman Jim Langevin. "This federal funding will be used to better monitor our waterfronts for pollution and other public health threats, so Rhode Islanders can continue to enjoy our pristine beaches and ocean for generations to come."
"Thanks to the Beach Act Grant, the Rhode Island Department of Health is able to conduct monitoring and notification of coastal water quality across the state. It is only through this year-over-year monitoring that we are able to develop and share our understanding of ongoing risks with the public, and also to demonstrate improvements in water quality. Improvements result from reductions in pollution source problems ranging from large scale upgrades of wastewater treatment plants to local scale projects that reduce stormwater runoff and pet waste," said Seema Dixit, Director of the Division of Environmental Health at the Rhode Island Department of Health.
"Consistently, more than a million Rhode Islanders and out-of-staters visit our state beaches every year. With the restrictions associated with the pandemic largely behind us, we expect even more beach goers this summer," said Terry Gray, Acting Director of Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. "DEM appreciates EPA Region 1’s support through BEACH Act grants to protect public health and help ensure that public beaches are clean and swimmable."
Since 2002, EPA has awarded more than $195 million in BEACH Act grants to 39 eligible partners, allowing a greater number of beaches to be monitored and the resulting data to be disseminated to ensure that potential beachgoers can make informed decisions about swimming. The grants are also part of a broader EPA effort to address sources of water pollution that contribute to beach closures. For example, EPA recently released an improved web-based app to help communities identify such pollution sources to local recreational water bodies (see: https://www.epa.gov/beach-tech/sanitary-surveys-recreational-waters) .
For specific information on grants under the BEACH Act as well as national grant guidance, see: https://www.epa.gov/beach-tech/beach-grants.
To check on the latest closings and advisories at particular beaches, contact the relevant state, tribal, or territorial beach program listed at: https://www.epa.gov/beaches/state-territorial-tribal-and-epa-beach-program-contacts.
To view data on water quality monitoring results and public notifications that have been reported to EPA over the years, see EPA’s national beach database, BEACON, at: https://watersgeo.epa.gov/beacon2/.
To access the EPA Sanitary Survey App for Marine and Fresh Waters, see: https://www.epa.gov/beach-tech/sanitary-surveys-recreational-waters#epa.