In Belmar, New Jersey, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) announced that he has reintroduced his legislation to reauthorize the BEACH Act, which requires tough new water quality testing and public notification standards so beachgoers are better informed about the safety of their beaches.
"Stormwater runoff is one of the primary contributors of water pollution, and now more than ever improved water quality and beach protections have become increasingly important to the Jersey Shore. Both from a public health standpoint and for the vitality of New Jersey's booming tourism industry, stricter standards and better testing methods are needed to give beachgoers the piece of mind that the beaches they visit are clean," said Pallone. "After Sandy, many of our hard hit coastal towns are strapped for cash and facing new challenges in water safety. Ensuring clean and safe beaches in New Jersey and nationwide is a necessary and wise investment by the federal government. I worked with Senator Lautenberg on this issue for years, and I'm proud to continue fighting for our beaches and working to get the BEACH Act signed into law."
The BEACH Act of 2013 will provide funding for water monitoring and notification programs and will require faster public notification of unhealthy conditions at America's beaches. It will also require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop methods for rapid testing of beach water.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council's (NRDC) 2013 Testing the Waters report, beach closings totaled 20,120 in 2012, exceeding 20,000 for the 8th time in the past nine years. More than 80 percent of closings and advisories were issued because bacteria levels in beachwater exceeded public health standards, indicating the potential presence of human or animal waste in the water. NRDC's report confirms that serious water pollution persists at many U.S. shores, and the primary known cause of this pollution is massive stormwater runoff and sewage.
In addition to protecting the environment, the BEACH Act makes sure beachgoers continue to come to the Shore. According to state officials, tourism directly supports 318,500 jobs and generated $34.7 billion in total economic activity last year, proving there's a lot at stake for New Jersey's beaches.
Pallone partnered with Senator Frank Lautenberg in writing the original BEACH Act in 2000 to fight for cleaner, healthier beaches, a cause the two worked on together for years. The original law required every coastal state to adopt water quality standards and established monitoring and notification programs to keep beachgoers safe. President Obama's budget proposal for 2014 eliminates BEACH Act grants.
"I'm extremely disappointed in the President's proposal to eliminate these important grants for water quality monitoring. It is critical that we invest in testing our waters to ensure swimmers are safe, and it is wrong to burden state budgets," added Pallone.
Pallone was joined in Belmar today by Mayor Matt Doherty and representatives from Clean Ocean Action, NY/NJ Baykeeper and the Surfrider Foundation.