PALLONE ASKS FOR UPDATE ON NEW BEACH CLOSING TESTING METHODS
U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), co-chairman of the Congressional Coastal Caucus, today called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to update Congress on new water quality testing methods that it was required to develop by the end of last year.
Pallone's request today came in response to recent reports that beaches in both Monmouth and Ocean County remained open last summer even though a review of seasonal testing averages found the water exceeded limits for fecal bacteria more often than beaches were closed. The New Jersey congressman is hopeful that updated testing methods will allow state and local governments to better monitor the cleanliness of the water along the Jersey shore.
In a letter to EPA Acting Administrator Steven Johnson, Pallone asked the EPA to update Congress on a report on water quality testing required as part of the Beaches Environmental Assessment Closure and Health (BEACH) Act, which Pallone originally authored and was signed into law in 2000. The BEACH Act required that the EPA produce a report for Congress within four years of enactment. The report was to include recommendations for new water quality criteria for pathogens and pathogen indicators, as well as suggestions to improve methodologies for monitoring coastal recreational waters.
Pallone requested an update on the EPA's efforts to develop instantaneous water quality testing methods and the creation of water quality standards for other pathogens. Current water quality monitoring tests, like those used in New Jersey, only test for bacteria levels and take 24 to 48 hours to produce reliable results, during which time many beachgoers can be unknowingly exposed to harmful pathogens. Immediate results would prevent beaches from remaining open when high levels of bacteria are found.
"I am seeking this information because I would like to provide the highest level of protection for the health of my constituents and beachgoers around the country," Pallone wrote in the letter to Acting Administrator Johnson. "It is critical that local public health departments have the best technology available and the widest range of policy tools to provide the highest level of public health for beachgoers."
Pallone also requested information on the status of implementing the new water quality standards for wastewater treatment plants, stating that facilities need to be adequately informed of their obligations to ensure their compliance with clean water standards.