Coastal Monitoring

The Beach Awaits

By Trey Cody

Enjoying a day at the beach

When thinking of a beach threat, I typically think of jellyfish.  Once on a family beach vacation, my sister was stung by a jellyfish, and the memory has stuck with me since.  Some people on the other hand may think of crabs or sharks when asked about dangerous things at the beach.

But potentially the most harmful threat at the beach is one we cannot see: bacteria.  A majority of beach closings and advisories issued last year were due to elevated bacteria levels in the water.  An unusually elevated bacteria level in beach water is typically the result of uncontrolled human or animal waste. In wet weather events, stormwater runoff pollutes beach water by bringing bacteria along the way as it runs off through streets and through sewers. To protect the health of beachgoers, monitoring is conducted at many beaches, and advisories are posted to alert the public when it isn’t safe to swim because of high bacteria.

The good news is that for the seventh consecutive year, in 2011, the nation’s coastal and Great Lakes beaches were open and safe for swimming 95 percent of the time during the swimming season.

Beach water quality is a priority here at EPA. We work with state and local partners to control potential sources of pollution to the beaches.  For example, we help communities to build and properly operate sewage treatment plants, and implement a national storm water program and promote green infrastructure to reduce runoff and minimize sewer overflows.  On our Region III Beaches page, you can find out information on beach sampling data, beach closings and advisories, beach water quality standards, and much more!

The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) uses data and information from EPA and the States to publish an annual report on the quality of beach water in the U.S.  It rates popular beaches and awards the ones with exceptionally low violation rates and strong testing and safety practices. Three of the Mid-Atlantic Region’s very own beaches have been particularly vigilant about minimizing the threats from bacteria.  Delaware’s Dewey and Rehoboth beaches and Maryland’s Ocean City at Beach 6 all received a 5-star rating from the NRDC.

At these beaches and many others in Region 3, national standards were not only met, but exceeded, making them some of the cleanest beaches in the country. So before the summer slips away, grab your swim suit, towel and sunscreen and head down to your favorite stretch of shoreline!  Share stories of your time at the beach this summer in our comments section, and contribute your photos to EPA’s State of the Environment Photo Project.

About the Author: Trey Cody has been an intern with EPA’s Water Protection Division since graduation from high school in 2010. He is currently attending the Pennsylvania State University.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Surf’s Up

Great-Lakes-Beach-MeasureThe summer beach season is in full swing!

Although we’re not buff lifeguards perched on lookout stands, EPA and the coastal states play a critical role in making your day at the beach a safe one.

There are three basic ways EPA and the states keep you safe from pollution at the beach:

 1.    preventing pollution from getting on the sand and in the water,

2.    measuring beach water to learn how clean it is, and

3.    telling people about actual beach conditions.

The U.S. enjoys some of the world’s best beach quality.  For the past six years, America’s beaches have been open and safe for swimming more than 95 percent of the time.

For that other 5 percent, EPA provides the states with beach grants to monitor beach water and make sure to notify you if conditions are unsafe for swimming.

In a single year, an estimated 96 million people visited a U.S. beach. Are you among that group?  How many times do you visit a beach during the summer?  What’s your favorite stretch of sand?

For more information, visit our site about Mid Atlantic beaches, oceans, and estuaries.  You can also listen to this recent Environment Matters Podcast to learn more about the deep blue sea and the ways it’s being protected.

And check out these posts we had earlier this summer about Adopt-A-Beach programs and BEACON notifications.  And finally, make sure you don’t fry at the beach – for ways to protect yourself from the sun, check out EPA’s SunWise tips.

See you at the beach!

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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To Bold’ly Go Where No Ship Has Ever Gone Before

Click here to watch the video!The flagship of the EPA is gearing up for battle to keep our nation’s coastal waters clean! That’s right – the United States Naval Ship (USNS) Bold turned Ocean Survey Vessel (OSV) Bold is EPA’s only ocean and coastal monitoring vessel. Designed to meet sampling and data analysis needs, the OSV Bold is outfitted with state-of-the art equipment used to collect water and sediment samples. These can be processed and analyzed in onboard laboratories or later onshore.

Click on the picture to watch a video overview of the OSV Bold. On that site you’ll find more videos and more info! We currently have Region 3 Water Protection Division employees aboard so stay tuned for narratives of life on the OSV Bold!

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.