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EPA Takes Off to Kick Off Beach Season

Release Date: 06/01/2006
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(NEW YORK, NY) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) beach surveillance helicopter, the “Coastal Crusader,” is tuned-up and ready for action; it will scan the coastal waters of New Jersey and New York and gather water samples for EPA’s annual beach monitoring program. Each summer, EPA takes samples of coastal waters to determine whether the levels of bacteria in the water are safe for the millions of people who flock to the beach every year. In addition, EPA has given New Jersey and New York about $600,000 in grants to help them test for pathogens in recreational waters this year.

“The helicopter and these grants are our way of helping to answer the question ‘Is it safe to go into the water?’,” said Alan J. Steinberg, EPA Regional Administrator. “Our goal is to safeguard the surf and sand, part of our continued effort to keep the water healthy for everyone. Monitoring water quality is a key part of our comprehensive approach to protecting our beaches and coastal waters, but we urge all visitors to use the beach responsibly and help keep them free of litter to prevent pollution.”

In addition to taking samples, EPA uses the Coastal Crusader to search for floating debris that can wash up on area beaches. Data is also given to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which uses skimmer vessels to scrape debris from the surface water and ensure that no floating debris is washed ashore. EPA uses the helicopter throughout the beach season to test for dissolved oxygen as far as nine miles off the coastline. Ocean waters must meet certain levels of dissolved oxygen to ensure their health. In addition, EPA conducts semi-monthly sampling for phytoplankton. The samples provide an early warning of noxious algae blooms that threaten water quality and the sea life it supports. The sampling results are shared with federal, state and local agencies to help them determine if beach closures are necessary.

Each year, EPA gives out funds under the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act (BEACH Act) to make monitoring programs more consistent nationwide, improve water quality testing at the beach, and help beach managers better inform the public about water quality problems. The act authorizes EPA to award grants to help eligible states, tribes, and territories develop and implement beach water quality monitoring and notification programs. This year, EPA has given New Jersey $277,730, New York $348,740, Puerto Rico $328,450, and the U.S. Virgin Islands $303,180.
Since 2001, over five million dollars have been appropriated for the region: New Jersey ($1.1 million), New York ($1.4 million), Puerto Rico ($1.3 million) and the U.S. Virgin Islands ($1.2 million), to monitor beach water quality and to inform the public about conditions. EPA is making almost $10 million in grants available in 2006 to eligible states to protect public health at the nation’s beaches. These grants are available to coastal and Great Lakes states to help them implement programs to monitor water quality at the beach and to notify the public when water quality problems exist.

For photos of the helicopter and more information on EPA’s coastal water activities, visit:
http://www.epa.gov/region02/water/oceans/copter.htm and http://www.epa.gov/ost/beaches.

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