New bill will improve US beach bathing standards

A bill requiring all coastal states to adopt health-based standards water quality at beaches and to inform the public when it is too polluted to bathe has been passed unanimously by the Senate.

The Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act of 2000, or the BEACH Bill as it has become known, which now moves to the House for final passage will fill an important gap in US legislation. At present, beach water monitoring practices along US coasts vary considerably, with many states not testing their beach waters on a regular basis. Furthermore, the states that do test their waters do not always alert the public when waters are unsafe for recreation, says the American Oceans Campaign (AOC), a national NGO dedicated to safeguarding the vitality of the US’s oceans and coastal areas.

Sponsored by New Jersey Democrat Senator Frank Lautenberg, the BEACH Bill passed on 21 September calls for national minimum water quality criteria for beach waters and authorises $30 million in new grants annually to help coastal states develop and implement effective water quality monitoring and public notification programs. States will have three years from the bill’s introduction to implement measures such as having to notify the public when high bacterial levels make beach water unsafe for recreational use.

“The future is looking brighter for America’s beach goers,” the celebrity actor and Founding President of AOC, Ted Danson, said. “By passing the BEACH bill, the Senate has taken a major step toward ensuring that future trips to the beach are healthy ones for millions of Americans. After all, a day at the beach should not end with a trip to the doctor. We hope the House will move swiftly to give final approval to the BEACH Bill and send it to the President for his signature.”

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