United States
           Environmental Protection
Off ice of Water
September 1997
&EPA   BEACH Program

Table of Contents

             Primary Sources of Pollution

             The BEACH Program
                 Strengthening Beach Standards and Testing
                 Improving Science
                    Faster Laboratory Test Methods
                    Predicting Pollution
                    Investing in Health and Methods Research
                 Informing the Public

             Additional Information

Just about everybody enjoys going
to the beach! Our lake, river, and
ocean beaches are Americans'top
vacation choices. Americans take
almost two billion trips to the
beach each year and spend billions
of dollars in beach communities.
Some Illnesses & Symptoms
Gastroenteritis (includes
diarrhea and abdominal
pain), salmonellosis (food
poisoning), cholera.
Fever, common colds,
gastroenteritis, diarrhea,
respiratory infections,
giardiasis (including diarrhea,
and abdominal cramps),
Digestive disturbances,
vomiting, restlessness,
coughing, chest pain,
fever, diarrhea.
       The water at your beach looks
       clean, but is it? It may be worth
       your while to find out before
you or your children go swimming. Each
year states across the country report
thousands of beach closings at rivers,
lakes, and oceans due to disease-
causing microorganisms that you
cannot see. Many other beaches may
also be polluted, but if the water is not
monitored and the results are not
posted, you won't know whether you
run the risk of getting sick.The  U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
with its new Beaches Environmental
Assessment, Closure and Health
Program ("BEACH Program") is
working with state, tribal and local
governmental partners to make
sure you have beach water quality
information before you swim.
        The most frequent sources
        of disease-causing micro-
        organisms (pathogens) are
sewage overflows, polluted storm
water runoff, sewage treatment plant
malfunctions, boating wastes and
malfunctioning septic systems.

      Swimming in unsafe water
      may result in minor illnesses,
      such as sore throats or diarrhea.
It might  also result in more serious
illnesses such as meningitis, encep-
halitis, or severe gastroenteritis.
Children, the elderly, and people
with weakened immune systems
have a greater chance of getting
sick when they come in contact with
contaminated water.
                                                   PAGE  2


        Across the country, state, tribal,
        and local health and environ-
        mental protection agencies
are responsible for monitoring the
quality of water at beaches and posting
warnings or closing beaches when
pollutant levels in the water are too
high. In practice, however, monitoring
and beach posting programs are
inconsistent. Some areas have good
monitoring and posting programs;
others have inadequate or no programs
at all. EPA established the BEACH
Program to provide a framework for
local governments to develop equally
protective and consistent programs
across the country.

      EPAs BEACH Program aims to
      protect the health of beach
      goers through assistance to state,
tribal, and local health and environmental
officials in designing, developing and
implementing beach monitoring and
advisory programs and by providing
the public with information about the
risks associated with swimming in conta-
minated water. EPA intends to exercise a
variety of authorities and programs to
ensure effective state, tribal, and local
beach programs are put into operation.
Strong water quality standards, improved
scientific methods, and providing informa-
tion to the public are the key elements of
the BEACH Program.
    Nationwide implementation  of
strong, consistent beach programs
will provide the public with important
information about the quality of their
beach water and allow them to make
decisions on when and where to swim.
This document provides a brief overview
of beach pollution problems and what
EPA is doing to keep you and your family
safe when swimming.
New Jersey: A Good Role Model
Since 1974, the New Jersey
Department of Environmental
Protection (DEP) has had an effec-
tive coastal monitoring program.
Under its program, local health
agencies sample beach waters for
bacterial indicators of fecal contam-
ination. They also investigate
potential sources of pollution. This
sampling data enables local health
agencies to respond immediately
when they observe potential risks
to human health.

New Jersey health agencies collect
several water samples from over 300
sites each week during swimming
season. A beach is closed when
more than one sample per week
shows a potential problem. The
beach is not reopened until tests
showthe water is safe for swimming.

In addition, New Jersey DEP and 94
coastal municipalities are working to
eliminate causes of beach pollution.
Municipalities are mapping their
storm wa ter and sewage lines, iden-
tifying inter-connections, and moni-
toring storm water discharged to
coastal waters. In recent years, beach
closings were generally localized and
associated with specific storm or rain
events. Improvement in storm water
management is expected to further
decrease beach closings each year.
                                                  PAGE   3

                                    Primary Sources of Pollution
EPA awarded approximately $70
billion to municipalities between
1972 and 1996 to help communities
construct and improve wastewater
treatment plants. As a result, sophis-
ticated sewage treatment systems
serve over 85 percent of the U.S.
population and treat billions
of gallons of sewage each year.
Despite federal, state, tribal and
local investments, some poorly
maintained or otherwise inade-
quate sewage treatment systems
still exist. These systems, combined
with population increases, mean
partially treated or untreated
sewage is still reaching our
recreational waters.
       The majority of beach closings
       in the United States result from
       testing that indicates high
levels of harmful bacteria, viruses,
and other pathogens
are present in beach
water. High levels of
these pathogens
through ingestion,
body contact and
inhalation increases
the public's risk
of illness.
   Before the passage of the Clean
Water Act of 1972, water pollution from
untreated sewage was common and
widespread.This landmark legislation
has dramatically reduced the amount
of harmful pollutants entering U.S.
waters, but the volume of wastewater
        continues to increase as our
              population grows.
                 Recently collected
                   beach water
                    quality informa-
                    tion shows the
                    major sources
                  of pathogens in
                beach water are
             untreated or partially
     treated sewage and storm water
runoff spilling onto the beaches and
from overflowing sewage collection
and treatment facilities.
                                                   PAGE  4

 Sewer Overflows
       EPA and state environmental
       protection agencies work with
       local communities to ensure
that sewage collection and treatment
systems are properly installed, operated,
and remain functional. Under normal
operating conditions, sewage from
homes and businesses is carried to
wastewater treatment facilities where
it is properly treated and tested before
it is discharged.
   Older or malfunctioning sewer
systems may have leaking or damaged
pipes and connections. Some systems
may be simply overloaded because they
are serving communities larger than
those for which they were designed.
During storms or even under dry condi-
tions these systems can spill or leak raw
sewage into our waters.
   About 900 cities in the United States
have combined sewer systems.These
systems were designed years ago to
carry both raw sewage and storm water
runoff (rain and snow melt) to a treat-
ment plant. They were also designed to
discharge excess wastewater into local
waterways when the system became
overloaded. During heavy rainstorms, for
example, overloaded combined sewer
systems may discharge a mixture of raw
sewage, polluted runoff and litter from
streets and, in some cases, industrial
waste waters, into local waterways
where it can contaminate downstream
beaches and other areas. In 1994, EPA
established  a national strategy to greatly
reduce the number of combined sewer
overflows causing human health and
environmental problems.
San Francisco:
Controlling Sewer Overflows
The City of San Francisco spent
$1.45 billion and twenty years
building a system to control
combined sewer overflows. As
part of the project, the city built
large underground structures that
act like a moat surrounding the
city's shoreline, intercepting
sewage and urban runoff that
otherwise would have been dis-
charged into local water bodies.
The structures trap, temporarily
store, then transport the mixture
of storm water and sanitary
sewage to upgraded treatment
facilities. Eighty-five percent of the
sewage and storm water that
would otherwise be discharged
on the beaches is captured and
treated at wastewater treatment
plants. The remaining 15 percent
gets flow-through treatment In
the storage/transport system
before it is discharged.
Before the control structures were
built, the city had between 50 and
80 untreated overflows on to its
shorelines each year. Now that the
new system is in place, overflows
range between 1 and 10 per year.
                                                 PAGE  5

                                      Polluted Storm Water Runoff
Santa Monica Finds Health Risk
Directly Related to Storm Drains
Storm drain outlets pollute more
than two miles of Santa Monica's
beaches. In the summer of 1995,
more than 15,000 people were
interviewed immediately after
swimming near storm drains and
again 9 to 14 days later. In the
second interview, swimmers were
asked whether they had any
symptoms of illness such as fever,
chills, eye discharge, earache,
skin rash, vomiting, diarrhea, or
sore throat.

During the study, researchers
collected daily water samples at
various distances from the drain
outlets and analyzed the water
for the presence of indicators of
disease-causing pathogens. They
found that people who  swam
directly in front of storm drain
outlets had a higher incidence of
symptoms than people  who had
been swimming 400 yards a way.

Santa Monica is working to
reduce the risk from its storm
drains with street sweeping,
catch basin cleaning, and other
measures. The city has also estab-
lished an outreach program to
alert the public to the hazards
of swimming near storm drain
   n some cities in the United States,
   separate storm sewer systems
   collect and transport rainwater and
snowmelt to treatment facilities before
releasing it into a river, stream, or bay.
When storm water sewers are over-
loaded they discharge directly into
these waters. Rainwater also flows to
our beaches after running off lawns,
farms, streets, construction sites, and
other urban areas picking up animal
waste, fertilizer, pesticides, trash, gasoline,
oil,  and many other pollutants.
    n an effort to reduce health risks
associated with the discharge of
untreated storm water into local
waterways, EPA and representatives
from State and municipal government
health and environmental protection
agencies have been working collectively
to increase the capacity of storm  water
collection systems and reduce dis-
charges of untreated storm water
into surface waters.
                                                     PAGE   6

The  BEACH Program
Strengthening Beach Standards and Testing Programs
    Strong health standards
     and testing programs,
     improved science, and
    informing the public are
    essential for protecting
    public health at beaches.

      EPA is committed to helping the
      states and tribes protect public
      health at recreational beaches.
Ensuring state and tribal adoption of
strong water quality standards for recre-
ational waters is an essential part of
this commitment. States and tribes set
beach water quality standards, based
on pollutant levels ("criteria") developed
by EPA. Local health officials then test
their water to see if it meets the state
standards. If tests show that pollutant
levels are above the standard, then local
agencies take appropriate action to
inform beach goers through a swim-
ming advisory or beach closure.
   Unfortunately, not all states and tribes
have adopted the latest criteria to protect
public health at recreational beaches. EPA
is working to ensure that those states and
tribes, that have not already done so,
adopt the updated water quality criteria
for Escherichia (E-coli) and/or entero-
coccus bacteria as part of their water
quality standards. EPA is using its
current authority, and a variety of tools
including technical and programmatic
assistance, to ensure appropriate criteria
are adopted into all state and tribal
water quality standards.
   Monitoring and advisory programs
detect pollution and provide timely
warnings to the public. Under the BEACH
Program, EPA will develop national
guidance as a model to state and tribal
governments for developing successful
monitoring and advisory programs. EPA
will also provide information and guid-
ance for implementing local programs.
 Current monitoring and advisory
 programs range from good to
 non-existent. Under the BEACH
 Program, EPA, in conjunction with
 participating agencies, is:
 Providing technical guidance
  and training on new methods,
  sampling strategies and predictive
  models; and
 Sponsoring a national conference
  and other meetings to focus more
  scientific research on better detec-
  tion tools and monitoring and
  advisory programs.
                                              PAGE  7

                                     Improving Science
Great Lakes Beach Closings Continue
In a comprehensive study on
the Great Lakes beaches, EPA
noted that 66 of the 276 beaches
monitored in 1994 (24%) were
closed or restricted at least once
during the bathing season. During
the fourteen years covered by the
survey, the number of beach
closures a veraged between 40
to 60 per year. Closures were
caused by pathogens, turbidity,
combined sewer overflow
discharges, debris, excessive algae,
aesthetic degradation, or any
other occurrence such as an
accident or spill that was likely to
be harmful to human health.
    Through the coordinated
efforts of all levels of government,
the BEACH Program is working to
improve the scientific foundation
 for beach testing by: providing
 faster laboratory test methods
to predict pollution, and making
new investments  in public health
   and beach testing methods
  research. These  new scientific
 tools will help give health and
environmental officials the ability
 to provide early warning about
 the potential for public health
   risks caused by swimming
       in polluted water.

       Timing, both in detecting and
       reporting potentially harmful
       microorganisms, is critical to
protecting public health. Current labo-
ratory tests take too long to determine
whether beach water is polluted. EPA
has, however, developed and is making
available a new laboratory test method
that gives accurate results in half the
time than current methods allow. This
new, improved laboratory test method
for enterococci produces results in 24
hours rather than 48 hours required by
the current method. Local officials who
use this new laboratory test method
will be  able to reduce unnecessary
exposure of the public to disease-
causing pathogens by more promptly
               issuing warnings to
                      beach goers.
                                                    PAGE  8

         Although some local beach
         officials can predict beach
         pollution through the use of
computer models or other information,
most local officials must wait
for test results before
they can take action,
potentially expos-
ing the public to
disease causing
organisms. EPA is
sponsoring research
to develop and validate
models that enable government
officials to predict pollution before
the public is exposed.These models
will identify, in  advance, when closure
of a specific beach is necessary (to pro-
tect public health). Predictive models
use data such as rainfall rate, duration
of pollution, and historical severity of
pollution to calculate potential adverse
water quality conditions.They are an
effective initial warning device that
local officials can use to alert beach
goers of potential problems during and
immediately following a rain storm.
   Typically, pollutants washed into
rivers, lakes, and streams eventually
   make their way to recreational
           beaches. Local officials
               collect  samples of
                 water at down-
                  stream beaches
                  and test them for
                  the presence of
               However, people swim-
           ming during the time
   between sample collection and
test results may be unnecessarily
exposed to microbial pollutants at
peak contamination times. Predictive
models are intended to reduce such
exposures. EPA has begun an evalua-
tion of existing models and will  begin
collecting modeling  data from new
sites in 1998. Once complete EPA
will provide copies of the models
and training in their use.
Delaware Uses Predictive Models
The State of Delaware monitors
approximately 50 miles of coast-
line and se vera I inla nd p onds
  checking bacteria levels,
monitoring rainfall, and assessing
other factors known to have an
impact on water quality. Testing
is done throughout the swimming
season. By using a predictive
model, they are able to make
assumptions about the potential
risk to swimmers following rainfall
and other events, and can reliably
predict where and when exposure
to bathers is significant. Use of the
model allowed the State to reduce
the number of sampling sites
and staff time, while expanding
coverage of their public health
protection program.

         As mentioned, current test
         methods cannot detect all
         disease-causing organisms
or give us instantaneous results.To fill
this gap, EPA has begun work on a
multi-year research agenda. EPA
in conjunction with the scientific
community, will  develop new and
better ways to assess viral and bacterial
contamination in recreational waters.
   Specifically, the BEACH Program
research agenda includes, among other
things: development of methods that
will identify the presence of eye, ear, nose,
throat, and skin disease-causing agents in
recreational waters; development of an
easy to use "dipstick" indicator method
that can be used by local officials, private
citizens, or lifeguards to instantaneously
identify the potential for fecal contami-
nation; and epidemiological studies to
validate new methods and establish
relationships between diseases and the
presence of microorganisms in the water.
    mplementation of the research
agenda has begun and will continue at
least through the year  2001. Additional
monitoring and assessment tools will be
made available as they are completed.
               PAGE   10

Informing the Public
       The BEACH Program is designed
       to improve public access to
       information about the quality
of the water at their beaches and health
risks associated with swimming in
polluted water. As part of EPAs commit-
ment to ensure the public right-to-
know, EPA created an Internet website
and additional written materials that
explain the program.This will make
it easier for everyone to find out about
local beach water quality conditions,
beach advisories, closures, and other
pertinent information. In addition, EPA
is in the process of gathering specific
information on individual beaches.This
information will be available for the first
time by the summer of 1998 and will be
updated annually.
   EPAs new website on the  Internet,
called "Beach Watch," is an on-line direc-
tory of information about the water
quality at our nation's beaches, local
protection programs, and other beach-
related programs. The "Beach Watch"
website is located on the Internet at
Beach closings and local contacts are
listed by state where available."Beach
Watch" will be updated as new informa-
tion becomes available.
   Government agencies, tourism
boards, environmental groups and
others  are encouraged to contact EPA
about contributing health-related
studies, reports, and appropriate
questions and answers.
EPA's Brochure:
"Before You Go to the Beach..."
EPA's brochure, "Before You Go to
the Beach..."(EPA-820-K-97-001)
describes what citizens should
know or do before they go to the
beach. The brochure and additional
copies of this document are
available free to the public. You
can either download them from
the "Beach Watch" website or
contact EPA's National Center for
Environmental Publications and
Information (NCEPI) at 11029
Kenwood Road, Building 5,
Cincinnati, OH 45242;
FAX (513) 489-8695.
                                                 PAGE  11

 For  More  Information
      For additional information on water
      quality at specific beaches, visit our
      website or call the city, county, or
state health or natural resource protection
agency listed in  your local telephone book.
    You may obtain additional copies of
this document and our free brochure
"Before You Go to the Beach..." (EPA-820-K-
97-001) from our website/'Beach Watch" or
by contacting EPA's National Center
for Environmental Publications and
Information (NCEPI) at 11029 Kenwood
Road, Building 5, Cincinnati, OH 45242;
FAX (513) 489-8695.
   Visit EPA's website/'Beach Watch,"
at http://www.epa.gov/OST/beaches
for additional information on the
BEACH Program.
You may also contact: U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency Office of Water,
Office of Science and Technology,
401 M St., S.W. (4301), Washington, D.C. 20460.
E-mail: OWGENERAL@epamail.epa.gov
In addition you may contact any of the
following EPA BEACH program staff
listed below.
BEACH Program Contacts
Rick Hoffmann
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, HQ
401 MSt,S.W.(4305),
Washington, D.C. 20460
(202) 260-0642

Fred Kopfler
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Gulf of Mexico Program
Building 1103, Room 202
Stennis Space Center, Mississippi 39529-6000

Matthew Fiebman
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 1
One Congress Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02203-0001
(States: CT,RI,MA,ME, NFFVT)

Randall Young
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 2
290 Broadway
New York New York 10007-1866
(States: NY NJ, DE,PR,VI)

Randy Braun
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 2
2890 Woodbridge Avenue-Building 10
Edison, New Jersey 08837-3679
(States: NY,NJ,PR,VI)
  Brigitte Farren
  U.S.Environmental Protection Agency Region 3
  841 Chestnut Building
  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107
  (States: PA, MD,DE, DC, VAWV)

  Joel Hansel
  U.S.Environmental Protection Agency Region 4
  100 Alabama Street,
  Atlanta, Georgia 30303
  (404) 562-9274
  (States: NC, SC, GA, FF,AF, KYJN, MS)

  David Pfeifer
  U.S.Environmental Protection Agency Region 5
  77 West Jackson Boulevard
  Chicago, Illinois 60604-3507
  (States: IF,OH, Ml, MM,Wt, IN)

  U. S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 6
  1445 Ross Avenue (6WQ-EW)
  Dallas,Texas  75202-2733
  (States: NM,TX,OK,AR,FA)

  Jake Joyce
  U.S.Environmental Protection Agency Region 7
  726 Minnesota Avenue
  Kansas City Kansas 66101
  (States: KS, MO, IA, NE)
   David Moon
   U.S.Environmental Protection Agency Region 8
   999 18th Street Suite 500
   Denver, Colorado 80202-2466
   (States: CO,MT,WY, ND,SD, UT)

   Philip Woods
   U.S.Environmental Protection Agency Region 9
   75 Hawthorne Street
   San Francisco,California  94105
   (States: CA,AZ, NM, NV, HI)

   Curry Jones
   U.S.Environmental Protection Agency Region 10
   1200 Sixth Avenue
   Seattle,Washington 98101
   (States: WA,OR,AK,ID)
                                                        PAGE  12