When Obama released his budget proposal last week, it stated that funding for the Beaches Grant Program would be eliminated saving a mere $9.9 million. The program provides grants to “develop and implement programs to inform the public about the risk of exposure to disease-causing microorganism in the water at the nation’s beaches.” The BEACH Act was passed in 2000 as a way to warn surfers, swimmers, and beachgoers of health risks associated with the contact of contaminated water from runoff and sewage.
According to the Surfrider Foundation, over $70 billion is generated from tourism and recreation along our coasts as well as supporting 1.7 million jobs (figures from 2004). With such large economic and health effects in jeopardy, it is important to keep this funding within the budget.
A quote from the budget states, “In this difficult financial climate, the Agency will eliminate the Beaches Grant Program with a reduction of $9.9 million in FY 2013. While beach monitoring continues to be important, well-understood guidelines are in place, and state and local government programs have the technical expertise and procedures to continue beach monitoring without federal support.”
The responsibility will be passed on to individual states and communities which are already struggling financially and it is still unclear what the possible consequences maybe.
Some possible scenarios include:
*Entire states may stop all of their beach water quality monitoring (some states rely entirely on EPA grants to support their beach programs).
*Many states will likely significantly curtail their monitoring programs. Some beaches will probably not be covered anymore, and states will likely be testing less often and could drop monitoring all together during the offseason, when surfers tend to dominate ocean use.
*The standards set by the BEACH act may be ignored, and less protective standards may be used, as the only stick the EPA has to enforce the current health standards is to withhold state beach grant monies.
The good news is that the budget still needs to go through many revisions and we have time to let the president and congress know that keeping our beaches and waterways clean is essential to a healthy economy. Many businesses rely on coastal health to grow and profit. To read more and sign the petition please visit https://www.change.org/petitions/urge-the-obama-administration-and-the-epa-to-restore-money-for-beach-monitoring-and-strengthen-water-quality-standards