Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Beach Protection Legislation Passed

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee recently approved legislation Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-OH) authored to increase funding to states to protect water quality, and to require tough new beach water quality testing and public notification standards so beachgoers are better informed about the safety of their beaches. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ-06) is the sponsor of companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

"New Jersey's beaches are a treasure we must protect. Our law nine years ago was an important step toward cleaner, safer beaches and this new measure will further protect our shores and our waters from pollution. Our bill also helps protect coastal economies by providing more timely and accurate information about beach quality and by keeping our shores clean," said Sen. Lautenberg, who along with Rep. Pallone authored the 2000 BEACH Act which set water quality testing and notification requirements so beachgoers are better informed about the safety of their beaches.

The Clean Coastal Environment and Public Health Act of 2009 reauthorizes grants awarded to states through the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act through 2013. It would increase the annual grant levels from $30 million to $60 million.

The Clean Coastal Environment and Public Health Act mandates the use of rapid testing methods by requiring the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to approve the use of rapid testing methods that detect bathing water contamination as soon as practicable and not more than four hours after a water quality sample is received by the testing facility.

Current water quality monitoring tests, like those used in New Jersey, only test for bacteria levels and take 24 to 48 hours to produce reliable results. During this time many beachgoers can be unknowingly exposed to harmful pollution. More immediate results would prevent beaches from remaining open when high levels of bacteria are found.

In addition to the water quality monitoring and notification standards currently required under the BEACH Act, the Clean Coastal Environment and Public Health Act would expand the scope to include pollution source tracking efforts. The bill also would require that beach water quality violations are disclosed not only to the public, but to all relevant state agencies with beach water pollution authority.

"The coastlines in New Jersey and throughout the country are environmental and economic treasures that need to be protected and preserved. They are central to multi-billion dollar tourism industries with an environmental value that is incalculable. This law will ensure that beachgoers will have clean shores and clean ocean water to enjoy for generations to come,” said Rep. Pallone.