Women in Science: Nancy Stoner – Beaches and Clean Water

By Nancy Stoner

As I look out my window, the budding trees, blooming flowers and falling rain signal that spring is coming. With the warmer weather, my family and countless others will be headed outdoors to enjoy time by the water. For many of us, this means trips to the beach.

Recently, I spoke at the National Beach Conference to discuss water quality at beaches and efforts to protect them from pollution. Beaches are among the most beloved water bodies for my family and many Americans. In fact, about 100 million people visit America’s beaches every year. Beach tourism also pumps more than $300 billion into the U.S. economy annually.

As a mother and an environmental professional, I am deeply motivated to protect human health and the environment, which includes our beaches and the people who visit them. We shouldn’t have to cancel beach trips – or become ill or develop skin rashes – because of pollution in our coastal waters.

EPA is working closely with state and local officials across the country to develop better measures for beach water pollution. Since 2000, EPA, in partnership with state, territorial and tribal governments, has made significant progress in improving the protection of public health at our nation’s beaches. From 2004 to 2009, U.S. beaches have been open for swimming about 95 percent of the time.

EPA grants have helped fuel this progress. During the last decade, EPA provided $102 million in grant funds to 37 coastal and Great Lakes states, territories and tribes to implement programs to monitor beaches for pollutants like bacteria and to notify the public when water quality problems exist. This year, EPA is providing almost $10 million in grants to continue and expand this important monitoring.

Additionally, to make our waters safer for swimming and to prevent pollution, we are working with communities to improve sewage treatment plants; strengthening storm water regulations to reduce polluted runoff from cities and towns; and working with our federal partners to prevent marine debris from entering our oceans.

We can all do our part to help keep beaches clean by taking actions such as planting more trees, installing rain barrels, picking up pet waste, keeping trash off the beach and properly disposing of household toxics, used motor oil and boating waste. After all, clean water is important to my family and yours!

Stay tuned to Greenversations throughout Women’s History Month and check out the White House website.

About the author: Nancy Stoner is the Acting Assistant Administrator for the EPA’s Office of Water and grew up in the flood plain of the South River, a tributary of the Shenandoah River.

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