EPA Provides Over $250,000 for Environmental Monitoring of Maine’s Coastal Beaches
EPA’s New England office has provided $254,730 to the Maine Healthy Beaches Program, to continue efforts to monitor water quality conditions at Maine beaches to ensure that people enjoying the beach are also enjoying healthy water conditions. This EPA funding was made available through the federal Beach Act of 2000, which requires coastal states to monitor beaches and notify the public about water quality. EPA’s Clean New England Beaches Initiative has helped states and local beach managers take the next steps of finding and eliminating pollution sources that cause beach closures. Since 2001, when the program began, Maine has been awarded over $1.3 million towards improving water quality monitoring along coastal beaches. Because of the length of its coastline and the number of beaches in the State, Maine has received the largest amount of Beach Grant funds given out among the five coastal New England states over the past six years. With this years funds, the amount awarded in the region will surpass $7 million. Because Maine’s beach season is so short, it makes every beach day a precious one,” said Robert Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “EPA’s goal is to eliminate chronic beach closures across New England. We are working with state and local officials to develop and implement aggressive efforts to remove sources of contamination, so that everyone can enjoy a day at the beach.” The EPA funding will help expand and improve water quality monitoring programs all along Maine’s beaches. Although EPA has provided funding and technical assistance to New England coastal states for many years, we are doubling our efforts this year to develop action plans for those communities with chronic contamination problems for beach water. 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. Detecting these bacteria requires consistent, high quality monitoring; exposure is preventable. The EPA funding assists Maine’s Healthy Beaches program, a six-year-old effort to improve monitoring and overall water quality at state coastal beaches. In 2001 only three Maine beaches were monitored. The number of beach closures in any given year in Maine has been low, but according to the most recent Healthy Coastal Beaches Program data, 19 out of 43 monitored beaches were closed for one or several days because of water pollution, for a total of 150 days. That’s a substantial increase from 2004 beach closures, possibly because of runoff due to heavy rainfall and because the total number of beaches looking for sources of contamination is much higher now than when the program started. Beach water quality is one of several topics – along with climate change and beach management – that will be featured at the Maine Beaches Conference being held today at the Southern Maine Community College in South Portland. Concurrent sessions during the morning include panels discussing the results of eight years of data gathered through the Healthy Beaches Water Quality Testing Program and one that discusses an advocacy program that developed strategies for Willard Beach in South Portland. One of the afternoon field trips will focus on water quality and storm water management. More information about EPA’s Clean New England Beaches Initiative: http://www.epa.gov/ne/eco/beaches. More information about swimming conditions at Maine beaches: http://www.mainehealthybeaches.org/index.html
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