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Water: Beaches

Basic Information

The BEACH Program focuses on the following five areas to meet the program goals of improving public health and environmental protection programs for beach goers and providing the public with information about the quality of their beach water:

Strengthening beach standards and testing. EPA works with states, tribes, and local governments to strengthen local beach health monitoring efforts and procedures to achieve these standards by providing technical guidance and training on new test methods and predictive models. You may view our summary report of state bacterial water quality standards for recreational waters.

Providing faster laboratory test methods. EPA has developed and is making available a new laboratory test method for enterococcus bacteria, indicator organisms for fecal contamination. This improved test method produces results in 24 hours rather than the 48 hours required for existing test methods. EPA provides technical assistance to state and private laboratories to implement this new method. Use of this method can result in earlier notification to the public about health hazards at beaches.

Predicting pollution. EPA works with other agencies at all levels of government to develop and validate models to predict where and when beach pollution is likely to occur. These models will assist public health officials in determining when warnings may be necessary to alert beach goers of potential problems during and immediately following a rain storm or other pollution event. EPA will provide copies of the models and training in their use when they become available.

Investing in health and methods research. EPA sponsors research to improve the scientific foundation in support of local, state, and tribal actions to protect public health at bathing beaches. Discussions are underway to identify critical areas of research that will likely include development and validation of new methods and indicators to assess waterborne pathogens.

Informing the public. The BEACH Program is improving public access to information about the quality of the water at their beaches and health risks associated with swimming in polluted water. EPA operates a website on the Internet, called "Beach Watch," which is an online directory of information about the water quality at our nation's beaches, local protection programs, and other beach-related programs. Our Beach Watch website is updated as new information becomes available.


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