Bill Would Expand Federal Clean Beach Water Program

Jul 21, 2017

NJ lawmakers, advocates hope to expand ocean water quality program
Credit Steve Sandberg / For Senator Bob Menendez

The BEACH ACT requires the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure that   the most up to date standards are being used to test beach water for contaminants.  Congressman Frank Pallone says right now that’s not happening.

“Most of the time it takes about twenty-four hours.  Our bill would allow for four hours, or try to mandate a four-hour test so people would know even quicker,” Pallone said. Then they can go on the website or they can find out from the media whether they can swim in a particular location.  Then when it’s cleaned up, they know that it is and they can go back.”

Senator Bob Menendez believes most beachgoers are happy with water quality at the Jersey Shore.

“The way to guarantee the public and have that sense of security that when they come to the shore they’ll be swimming in a beach that is clean, is because of the BEACH Act and the water quality monitoring that we do,” Menendez said.

The updated legislation would ensure federal funding for the beach water testing program for at least three more years.  Cindy Zipf with Clean Ocean Action says the federal water testing program has allowed more beaches to remain open to the public since enacted in 2000.

“Over the years that this law has been in effect, because the testing has been done, we’ve been able to identify where the problems are,” Zipf said.   “Where there’s chronic sewage containing contamination.  States have gone in and done some source track down to figure out why this is and eliminated a lot of sources.  Now we have predominantly open beaches, where in the past we had predominantly closed beaches.”

New Jersey beaches generate billions of dollars to the state economy.  Sea Bright Mayor Dina Long says a dirty beach is devastating to local tourism.

“Every weekend tens of thousands of people hop in their cars, drive to the beach, and go running into the ocean and trust that the ocean is clean.  Water testing ensures us that the water is actually clean and safe for them.  Ensuring that we have water testing is critically important to us.”