United States
Environmental Protection
September 1997
Office of Water (4301)

is the Water Safe for Swimming?

    The water at the beach looks clean, but is it? It
    hnay be worth your while to find out before you
or your children go swimming. Most water at beach-
es is safe for swimming. However, you cannot be sure
the beach water is safe unless it is tested because
your beach water may contain disease-causing
microorganisms that you cannot see.

Monitoring of beach water quality by local health
andienvironmental officials is necessary to warn
citizens when there is a problem.The United States
Environmental Protection Agency's new BEACH
Program (Beaches Environmental Assessment,
Closure, and Health Program) is designed to help
your local government officials provide you with
information necessary to protect your health.
How Does Beach Pollution
Affect You and Your Family?
      ater can be polluted by different things.Trash,
      such as picnic plates, plastic bags and bottles,
and cigarette butts is easy to see. it is often the
things we can't see, such as bacteria and other
micrporganisms,that we need to be more con-
certed about. If you or your family are exposed to
these disease-causing organisms, they may make
you sick.

Swimming or playing in unsafe water may result in
minor illnesses such as sore throats or diarrhea. It also
might result in more serious illnesses that may last
longer than your vacation at the beach! Children, the
elderly and people with weakened immune systems
have a greater chance of getting sick when they
come in contact with contaminated water. 

 Where Does This Pollution Come From?
    The most frequent sources of disease-causing
    microorganisms are from sewage overflows,
polluted storm water runoff, sewage treatment plant
malfunctions, boating wastes and malfunctioning
septjc systems.

Pollution in beach water is
often much higher during
and limmediately after
rainstorms because water
draining into the beach may
be carrying sewage from over-
flowing sewage treatment systems. Rainwater also
flows to our beaches after running off lawns,farms,
streets, construction sites, and other urban areas, pick-
ing up animal waste,fertilizer, pesticides, trash and
many other pollutants. Many of these pollutants can
end up in the water at our beaches.
Viruses _
- f
***> A^l **Jv
Protozoa r
^ -y,
' !
 ^ ~s
Some Illnesses and Symptoms
Gastroenteritis (includes diarrhea and
abdommaj pain), salmoneltosis
[food pofsonmg), cholera
Feiekcommon eolo^gastroenterrtis,
diard\eaf respiratory jnfcctiocis^hepatitfs,
f ~ ^
glardigsts (including dterrftea and --
abdprriinaf trarj)ps)f "dysentery
~. * Sl j '*
^ , e J:
Pigeswe disturbance vomiting,
restfess;rtess coughing, chest p"p, r
fever, diarrhea;

 BEACH Program

    The BEACH Program will help reduce health risks to
    you and your family by minimizing your exposure
 to disease-causing microorganisms in the water where
 you swim or play.The BEACH Program is ensuring
 public access to information about the quality of their
 beach water. In addition, EPA is working with state,
 tribal and local health and environmental officials to
 encourage use of faster tests to detect pollution as
 well as develop methods that will help predict when
 pollution may  occur. With advance warning provided
 by the local authorities, you will be able to decide
 when and 'where to swim.
 How Do I Get Information about My Beach?

    State,tribal,and local health and environmental
    protection officials are responsible for monitoring
 the quality of water at our nation's beaches, When
 they find a beach is contaminated they may post
 warnings or close the beach. Your local public health
 or environmental office can tell you if and when the
 water at your beach is monitored, who does it, and
 where the results are posted. Check with EPA's "Beach
 Watch" website at http://www.epa.gov/OST/beaches
 or contact your city, county or other local health
 officials listed in your local telephone book.
For Additional Information about BEACH

F:or additional information about the BEACH Program,
contact the U.S. EPA, Office of Water, Office of Science
and Technology at

      401 M Street, S.W., Washington, D.C 20460,
      ; E-Mail: OWGENERAL@epamail.epa.gov
        or visit EPA's Beach Watch website at

Questions to Ask Your Local
Beach Health Monitoring Official:
(B  Which beaches do you monitor and how often?
  What do you test for?
  Where can I see the test results and who
   cap explain them to  me?
  What are the primary sources of
   pollution that affect this beach?
What to Do if Your Beach
   Avoid swimming after a heavy rain.

   Look for storm drains (pipes that drain
   polluted water from streets) along the beach.
   Don't swim near them.
    Look for trash and other signs of pollution
    such as oil slicks in the water.These kinds of
    pollutants may  indicate the presence of disease-
    causing microorganisms that may also have
    been washed into the water.
    If you think your beach water is contaminated, con-
   tact your local health or environmental protection
   officials. It is important for them to know about
   suspected beach water contamination so they
   can protect citizens from exposure.
   Work with your local  authorities to create a
   monitoring program.