A Message from the Administrator
 Christine Todd Whitman
                  I believe water is the biggest
                  environmental issue we face in
                  the 21st Century in terms of
                  both quality and quantity. In
                  the 30 years since its passage,
                  the Clean Water Act has
                  dramatically increased the number
                  of waterways that are once again
 safe for fishing and swimming. Despite this great
 progress in reducing water pollution, many of the
 nation's waters still do not meet water quality goals.
 I challenge you to join with me to finish the business
 of restoring and protecting our nation's waters for
 present and future generations.
 For more information about beach water quality
 advisories, contact your local or state health or
 environmental protection department. You can find
 the telephone number in the blue section of your local
 telephone directory.
     may also contact:
 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
 Office of Water
 BEACH Program (4305T)
 1 200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
 Washington, DC 20460

 web address:  www.epa.gov/ost/beaches
       United States Environmental Protection Agency
               Office of Water (4101M)
           EPA-040-P02-001   April 2002
                    Cover photos:
    Ocean City Beach by Tex Jobe, US Army Corps of Engineers
Inset Photo by Gene Alexander, Natural Resources Conservation Service
 In celebration of the 30th anniversary
  of the Clean Water Act, EPA presents

       The water at. the beach looks clean, but is it? It
       may be worth your while to find out before you or
 your children go swimming. The water at most beaches
 is safe for swimming, most of the time. 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 and
 environmental .officials is necessary to warn citizens when
 there is a problem. With the passage of the Beaches
 Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health
 (BEACH) Act on October 10, 2000, the Clean Water
 Act was amended to include significant new beach
. protection provisions. This new law authorizes a national
 grant program to assist state, tribal, and local govern-
 ments in developing and implementing monitoring and
 public notification programs for their coastal recreation
 waters. It also requires states to adopt improved water
 quality standards for pathogens and pathogen indicators
 . and requires EPA to conduct  studies and develop
 improved microbiological water quality criteria guidance.
 In addition, the law requires EPA to develop  per-
 formance criteria for monitoring, notification, and public
 information databases and requires other federal agencies
 to establish certain programs.
 How does beach  pollution  affect you and
 your  family?
          er can be polluted by different things. Trash,
        such as picnic plates, plastic bags arid bottles,
 and cigarette butts is easy to see. It is often the things
 we can't see, such as bacteria and other microorganisms,
 that we need to be more concerned 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 sic!
when they come in contact with contaminated water.

Where does this pollution come from?
      The most frequent sources of disease-causing
      microorganisms are sewage overflows, pollute
storm water runoff, sewage treatment plant malfunctii
boating wastes, and  malfunctioning septic systems.

Pollution in beach water is often much higher durin:
and immediately after rainstorms because water dra
ing into the beach may be carrying sewage from ove
flowing sewage treatment systems. Rainwater also fl
to our beaches after  running off lawns, farms, street
construction sites, and other urban areas, picking u]
animal waste, fertilizer, pesticides, trash, and many
other pollutants. Many of these pollutants can end r
the water at our beaches.
g Microorganisms 1
Some Illnesses & Sy.
Gastroenteritis (includi
poisoning), cholera.
Fever, common colds, >
Gastroenteritis, crypto
cramps), dysentery.
Digestive disturbances

    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
         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 warn-
    ings or close the beach. \bur 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 www.epa/gov/OST/beaches  or contact your
    city, county, or other local health officials listed in your
    local telephone book.
ea and abdominal pain), salmonellosis (food
teritis, diarrhea, respiratory infections, hepatitis.
iis and giardiasis (including diarrhea and abdominal
g, restlessness, coughing, chest pain, fever, diarrhea.

                                     .V -i   .   ^
Questions to ask your locai beach
health monitoring official:
   Which beaches do you monitor and how often?
   What do you test for?
   Where can I see the test results and who can
    explain them to me?
   What are the primary sources of pollution that
    affect this beach?

What to do if your beach is not
monitored regularly:
   Avoid swimming after a heavy rain.
   Look for storm drains along the beach. Don't
    swim near them.
   If the waters of your beach have been designated
    as a no-discharge zone for vessel sewage, check
  .  to see if boat pumpout facilities are available and
   Look for trash and such other signs of pollution
    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.
  e If you diink your beach water is contaminated,
    contact 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.