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EPA Grant Helps Massachusetts Residents Enjoy Safe Beaches

Release Date: 08/04/2008
Contact Information: Paula Ballentine, (617) 918-1027

(Provincetown, MA – August 4, 2008) – With the summer beach season in high gear, EPA’s New England Administrator Robert Varney today announced a grant of $251,930 to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) to improve and expand water quality monitoring and notification at the state’s public salt water beaches.

The 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. Including this year’s grant, Massachusetts since 2001 has received $1,599,525 to implement its program. The grant is an essential element of EPA’s broader beach initiative to reduce pollution levels that cause chronic beach closures. Including grants to other New England coastal states, today’s grant brings the cumulative amount awarded in the region to more than $8 million.

The grant announcement took place at Provincetown’s Ryder Street Beach, one of the state’s Flagship Beaches, and a beach that has been closed once this beach season. Since Memorial Day, 115 of Massachusetts’ salt water beaches have experienced closures, some multiple times.

“This grant is key for helping the public know when it is safe to swim at the beach”, said Administrator Varney, “but we don’t want to stop at letting you know when the water quality is not meeting standards. The goal is to improve the water quality at our beaches. The beach season is short and precious in New England, and we are working with Massachusetts to ensure water quality that lets everyone make the most of it. Provincetown and MDPH have been excellent partners in this quest.”

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. The Agency is doubling efforts this year to develop action plans for those communities with chronic closures at coastal beaches.

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 contains 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.


Also today, the MDPH is releasing its annual report on the status of beaches in Massachusetts. The report highlights the improvements in monitoring and public notification at Massachusetts beaches since the institution of the EPA’s BEACH Grant. MDPH oversees monitoring at over 500 marine beaches on a regular basis throughout the summer. In 2007, 135 out of those monitored beaches were closed for a total of 795 days, a significant decrease from the 154 beaches closed for 1,571 days in 2006.

“The threat of waterborne illness is a significant public health concern,” added Associate Commissioner of the MDPH Suzanne Condon. “The support and partnership of EPA with us in our overall effort to improve management practices and conditions at marine beaches across the state has helped us to protect the health of Massachusetts’ residents.”

For more information about EPA’s Clean New England Beaches Initiative, visit:
http://www.epa.gov/region1/eco/beaches

For specific information about Massachusetts beaches, visit
http://mass.digitalhealthdepartment.com/public_21/index.cfm