Questions to ask your local 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.
   If you think 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.
 For More

 For more information about beach water quality
 advisories, contact your local or state health or
 environmental protection department. \ou can find
 the telephone number in the blue section of your
 local telephone directory.
 \bu may also contact:
 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
 Office of Water
 BEACH Program (4305T)
 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
 Washington, DC 20460
 web address:
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    United States Environmental Protection Agency
            Office of Water (4101M)
      EPA 823-F-04-024   September 2004

                 Cover photos
 Top: Ocean City Beach by Tex Jobe, US Army Corps of Engineers
Inset Photo: Gene Alexander, Natural Resources Conservation Service
Bottom: Richard Frear, USEPA Great Lakes National Program Office

 Is the water safe for swimming?
      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?
      Water 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 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 sick
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, polluted
storm water runoff, sewage treatment plant malfunctions,
boating wastes, and malfunctioning septic systems.

Pollution in beach water is often much higher during
and immediately  after rainstorms because water drain-
ing 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, picking up
animal waste, fertilizer, pesticides, trash, and many
other pollutants. Many of these pollutants can end up in
the water at our beaches.
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 warnings
or close the beach. \bur local public health or environ-
mental 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/beaches or contact your city, county, or
other local health officials listed  in your local telephone
  Disease-Causing Microorganisms in Sewage
  Microorganisms     Some Illnesses & Symptoms
           Bacteria     Gastroenteritis (includes diarrhea and abdominal pain), salmonellosis (food
                        poisoning), cholera.
            Viruses     Fever, common colds, gastroenteritis, diarrhea, respiratory infections, hepatitis.
          Protozoa     Gastroenteritis, cryptosporidiosis and giardiasis (including diarrhea and abdominal
                        cramps), dysentery.
            Worms     Digestive disturbances, vomiting, restlessness, coughing, chest pain, fever, diarrhea.