During Visit to Belmar, Legislators Announce Bill Containing Stronger Safety Standards for Beaches
U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ-06) today announced they would introduce the Clean Coastal Environment and Public Health Act of 2011. The legislation would reauthorize and improve the landmark Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act, which was written by Senator Lautenberg and Congressman Pallone and signed into law in 2000.
"A day at the beach shouldn't turn into a day at the doctor's office," Lautenberg said. "This measure will provide funding to further protect our shores from pollution and improve beach water monitoring. Beaches are vital to New Jersey's economy and we must not take this vital resource for granted. Eleven years ago, our BEACH Act was signed into law and today we have cleaner, safer water because of it. Now we need to strengthen the law and make sure our coastal economy and environment remain strong."
"Now more than ever people are coming to enjoy the Shore," said Pallone. "Despite tough economic times, tourism in New Jersey provides thousands of jobs that depend on having safe and clean beaches. Making sure that people can continue to come to our beaches is a priority for public health and for the economy."
In addition to protecting the environment, the BEACH Act makes sure beachgoers continue to come to the Shore. Over the past few years, New Jersey's tourism industry has grown where other sectors have not. Last year, visits to New Jersey were up by 4.6 percent, with 67.8 million tourists last year. State officials estimate that state's tourism industry is responsible for 193,000 private-sector jobs and was a $35.5 billion industry last year, proving there's a lot at stake for New Jersey's beaches.
The original BEACH Act required every coastal state to adopt water quality standards and established monitoring and notification programs to keep beachgoers safe. Through funding provided by this legislation, the number of monitored beaches has almost quadrupled -- from about 1,000 in 1997 to more than 3,800 in 2009.
According to a National Resources Defense Council report, 44 percent of beaches that reported to the Environmental Protection Agency in 2010 were monitored at least once a week. The Clean Coastal Environment and Public Health Act of 2011 will strengthen the BEACH Act by requiring better monitoring and faster notification of coastal contamination and by creating additional tools to address the sources of pollution that cause beach closures, including leaking or overflowing sewer systems and storm water runoff. It will also improve the public's awareness of health risks posed by contamination of coastal waters.