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EPA Grant Helps Rhode Islanders Enjoy Safe Beaches

Release Date: 08/11/2009
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

(Boston, Mass. August 11, 2009) - With the summer weather finally luring Rhode Islanders to the beach, EPA today announced a grant of $213,000 to the Rhode Island Department of Health to continue their efforts expanding and improving water quality monitoring and notification at the state’s public salt water beaches.

The EPA funding is the latest annual contribution made available through the federal Beach Act of 2000, which requires coastal states to monitor beaches and notify the public about water quality. Including this year’s grant, Rhode Island since 2001 has received $1,759,000 to implement its program.

“This grant money is an essential part of EPA’s broader beach initiative here in New England to reduce pollution levels that cause chronic beach closures,” said Stephen Perkins, acting deputy regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “The beach season in New England is so short. We are striving to make sure that every day people swim in our waters, they can do so safely.”

The grant announcement took place at Barrington’s Town Beach. Before the funding announcement was made, EPA staff including Mr. Perkins helped out with a beach cleanup sponsored by the Town of Barrington, R.I. Audubon and the East Providence Boys and Girls Club.

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. EPA has applied special focus on communities with chronic closures at coastal beaches, and developed action plans to address contamination issues.

Under this program, the RI DOH now monitors 74 marine beaches. In 2007, 15 out of the 69 regularly monitored beaches experienced an advisory or closure for a total of 69 days. In 2008, 18 out of the 74 monitored beaches (including six surfing beaches) experienced an advisory or a closure for a total of 127 days. In 2009, already 20 RI beaches have experienced closures or advisories. Also this year, Barrington has experienced 2 closure events for a total of 8 days.

A key element of this strategy for reducing closures is to address uncontrolled storm water runoff, which can significantly impact water quality at beaches, rivers and lakes. Storm water runoff and untreated sewage released into bodies of water contain bacteria, viruses and protozoa; some of which can cause minor illnesses such as gastroenteritis or more serious diseases such as hepatitis. Runoff can be contaminated through pet waste, wildlife, oil from roads, illicit connections and various other sources. Untreated sewage can find its way from leaking sewer pipes, failing septic systems, boats and combined sewer overflows.

More information:

EPA’s
Clean New England Beaches Initiative (www.epa.gov/region1/eco/beaches)

For specific information about
Rhode Island beaches (www.ribeaches.org)

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