August 3rd, 2006 18:15 EST
EPA Provides Over $250,000 for Environmental Monitoring of Maine’s Coastal Beaches
On a summer morning overlooking York’s Long Sands Beach, EPA’s New England office provided $254,730 to the Maine Healthy Beaches Program, to continue efforts to monitor water quality conditions at Maine beaches to ensure that people enjoying the beach are also enjoying healthy water conditions.
The funding is part of EPA’s regional “It’s a Shore Thing” Campaign. Since 2001, when the program began, Maine has been awarded over $ 1.3 million towards improving water quality monitoring along coastal beaches.
“Because Maine’s beach season is so short, it makes every beach day a precious one,” said Ken Moraff, an official with EPA’s New England office responsible for beach water quality issues. “Active monitoring of water quality not only helps to reduce the number of days our beaches are closed, but also helps us find the source of any potential contamination.”
Long Sands in York represents what beaches all across New England are striving for – zero closures due to harmful bacteria. The new EPA money will help expand and improve water quality monitoring programs all along Maine’s beaches. Ensuring that the water remains safe for swimming is vital not only for the State’s economy but is also helps maintain the high quality of life that the beaches of Maine provide.
“This program gives us information we never had before,” said Sue Inches, Deputy Director of the State Planning Office. “Now residents and visitors can make informed choices about their beach activities and stay healthy,” she said.
Polluted runoff and untreated sewage released into the water can contain bacteria, viruses, and protozoans, some of which can cause minor illnesses such as gastroenteritis or more serious diseases such as hepatitis. Runoff can be contaminated from pet waste, wildlife, illicit connections and various other sources. Sources of sewage include leaking sewer pipes, failing septic systems, boats and combined sewer overflows. Detecting these bacteria requires consistent, high quality monitoring; exposure is preventable.
Because of the length of its coastline and the number of beaches in the State, Maine has received the largest amount of Beach Grant funds given out in the New England region over the past six years. Across New England the amount awarded to date has surpassed $6 million. This EPA funding was made available through EPA's Clean New England Beaches Initiative, which grew from the Federal Beach Act approved by Congress in 2000.
York Beach is one of 46 beaches participating in Maine’s Healthy Beaches Program, a five-year-old effort to improve monitoring and overall water quality at state coastal beaches. In 2001 only three Maine beaches performed monitoring. The number of beach closures in any given year in Maine has been low, but according to the most recent Healthy Coastal Beaches Program data, there were 82 postings or closure days at coastal beaches statewide in 2005 because of elevated bacteria samples. That’s a substantial increase from 2004 beach closures, possibly because of heavy rainfall and because the total number of beaches looking for sources of contamination is much higher now than when the program started.
More information: EPA’s Clean New England Beaches Initiative (epa.gov/ne/eco/beaches)
More information: Swimming conditions at Maine beaches: (mainehealthybeaches.org/index.html)