EPA announces grant to support safe beaches in Rhode Island

EPA Announces Grant to Support Safe Beaches in Rhode Island
  
BOSTON
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a grant of $203,500 to the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) for its coastal beach monitoring program. Including today’s grant, Rhode Island has now received $3,423,656 since 2001 under the federal Beach Monitoring and Notification Program Development act to implement and support monitoring, assessing, and reporting the condition of a hugely valuable resource for the state’s citizens.  

“Swimming when bacteria levels are high can be harmful to human health,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “This funding will help ensure that Rhode Island’s beaches are safe and enjoyable.”

“Rhode Island’s hundreds of miles of coastline are at the economic, environmental, and cultural heart of our state,” said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. “This grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will allow RIDOH’s Beach Monitoring Program and RIDOH’s State Health Laboratories to work together to ensure the safety and accessibility of this invaluable resource for people in every single zip code in Rhode Island.”

Rhode Island has over 400 miles of coastline, with some of its beaches seeing up to 10,000 visitors in a single day during the summer. The beach grants are an essential part of a broader initiative to find and eliminate sources of pollution, particularly stormwater and other nonpoint sources, that contribute to chronic beach closures. Under the beach program, RIDOH monitors 69 licensed saltwater beaches for indicator bacteria; maintains and operates a public notification system; provides technical assistance to communities to assess pollution sources at specific beaches; and reports annually to EPA on the results of its monitoring and notification actions.  

In 2016, Rhode Island posted 12 saltwater beach closure events (number of times a beach was closed due to exceedance of water quality standards) and 23 saltwater beach closure days (number of days a beach was closed during an event). These numbers represent a major improvement relative to 2015 when there were 27 closure events spread over 54 closure days.  Because 2016 was a drier year than 2015, a more telling sign of improved water quality at beaches is that the 2016 decreases occurred under rainfall conditions very similar to those in 2014 that led to almost three times as many closure events (34 versus 12).

For specific information about Rhode Island beaches, including this year’s beach data, visit the RIDOH beach website at http://www.health.ri.gov/beaches/

(release from US EPA)

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