EPA gives state money to beef up beach safety

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will make $322,897 available to Hawai’i to protect public health at beaches in the state.

What portion of the funds will be used for beach protection on Kaua’i is not known. Hawai’i’s allotment is part of $10 million the EPA has made available nationwide.

The funds are to be used for water quality monitoring at beaches and notifying the public of beach warnings or closings.

“EPA is continuing its mission to ensure safer, purer water, to protect public health, and to provide assistance to states, territories and local health agencies to better monitor beach water quality and notify the public when there may be a problem,” said Catherine Kuhlman, the EPA’s water division director for the Pacific Southwest.

“With this money we hope to reduce the risk of exposure to disease-causing microorganisms in the water while people enjoy Hawai’i’s incredible water resources.”

Nationwide, the grant funds will be distributed to 35 eligible states and territories.

The grants vary from $149,025 to $544,552 and are based on criteria including the length of beach season, the miles of beaches and the number of people using those beaches.

State, territorial and local monitoring and notification programs often differ across the country and provide varying levels of swimmer protection.

The EPA grant funds are designed to ensure the public receives better protection when traveling to various beaches across the country.

The EPA estimates Americans make a total of 910 million trips to coastal areas each year, spending about $44 billion.

According to an EPA beach survey done in 2002, more than a quarter of the reported beaches (about 672) were either closed or were issued at least one swimming advisory in the summer of 2001.

A majority of the advisories were tied to elevated bacteria levels primarily from sewage overflows or from stormwater runoff.

The federal funds to help keep beaches safe for public use are available under the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act, which was passed by Congress in 2000.

The new law established a national program for monitoring beach water quality and notifying the public of unsafe conditions.

Additional beach information, including information for states and territories interested in applying for the federal grants, is available on EPA’s

BEACH WATCH Web site: http://www.epa.gov/waterscience/beaches.


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