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Legislators seek to monitor ocean quality

SEA BRIGHT – Aiming to provide citizens with safer and cleaner ocean water, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Rep. Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-Monmouth, Middlesex) discussed recently introduced legislation while standing on the Sea Bright Public Beach.

According to a prepared statement from Menenedez, the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act (BEACH Act) of 2017 would reauthorize a $30 million-a-year federal grant program through 2021 that would provide funding for local efforts to monitor beach water quality and notify the public of health hazards.

Discussed on a hot beach day, July 21, in Sea Bright, the legislation mandates the use of rapid testing methods by requiring Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to approve methods that detect water contamination in four hours or less so that beaches can be closed shortly thereafter.

Current water quality monitoring tests for bacteria levels take 24 to 48 hours to produce reliable results, during which time many beachgoers can be unknowingly exposed to harmful pathogens, according to a prepared statement.

According to Cindy Zipf, executive director of Clean Ocean Action, one of the bills her organization urged passage of in 2000 was a law that would protect people from sewage by establishing national standards for testing and numbers that would keep people safe from sewage. That action resulted in the creation of the BEACH Act.

The law also helps states set up and operate comprehensive monitoring and notification programs in order to provide up-to-date information on the condition of all public beaches, according to prepared statement.

“We are trying to upgrade the law because it was written in the 1990s and it was passed in the year 2000 and it was based on science from the 1980s so it is long overdue for a upgrade and that’s what Senator Menendez and Mr. Pallone are taking down to Washington D.C. is the upgrade,” Zipf said.

The monitoring program this season has already resulted in the temporary closures of several Jersey Shore beaches until the waters were deemed safe, according to a prepared statement.

The Beach Act was first enacted in 2000 under a law originally authored by Pallone and the late Senator Frank Lautenberg. Menendez has been the chief Beach Act sponsor in the U.S. Senate since the passing of Lautenberg in 2013, according to a prepared statement.

The act has provided New Jersey with more than $4 million in grants to operate approximately 180 ocean and 35 bay monitoring stations along the Jersey Shore, perform weekly recreational beach water quality monitoring and notify the public when tests come back positive for contamination to protect swimmers.

For more information about the Beach Act of 2017, visit www.epa.gov/beach-tech/about-beach-act.

For more information about Clean Ocean Action, visit www.cleanoceanaction.org/index.php?id=2.

Contact Vashti Harris at vharris@newspapermediagroup.com.

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