National Beach Guidance and Performance Criteria for Recreation Waters - DRAFT
United States Environmental Protection Agency Office of Water
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Coastal and shoreline development, wastewater collection and treatment facilities, septic tanks, animal feeding operations, urban runoff, disposal of human waste from boats, and bathers themselves all contribute to fecal contamination of our nation's recreational waters. People who swim and recreate in water contaminated with fecal pollution are at an increased risk of contracting gastrointestinal disease; respiratory, ear, eye, and skin infections; meningitis; and hepatitis (Rose et al., 1999). In response to these concerns, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its BEACH program in 1997. The goal of the program is to assist in reducing risk of disease to users of U.S. recreation waters by focusing on several key objectives: 1. Strengthening water quality standards for bathing beaches; 2. Improving state and local government beach programs; 3. Better informing the public; 4. Promoting scientific research to better protect the health of public beach users. Initial efforts focused on current water quality standards, improving our understanding of current state and local programs through national and local conferences, and identifying scientific needs. EPA also started its annual voluntary survey of state and local agencies that monitor water quality at beaches. The National Health Protection Survey of Beaches collected information about which local beaches are monitored and what agencies are responsible for beach programs, as well as detailed information about advisories and closures at specific beaches. In March 1999 EPA published the Action Plan for Beaches and Recreational Waters (Beach Action Plan), a multiyear strategy that describes the Agency's programmatic and scientific research efforts to improve beach programs and research.