After President Trump’s budget sought to sink a beach water testing program that helps Rhode Island monitor coastal waters throughout the summer to keep beachgoers safe, U.S. Senator Jack Reed helped lead the effort in Congress to revive it and successfully delivered $9.3 million in Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act grant funding to help monitor beaches nationwide. As a result of Senator Reed’s efforts, $201,500 was delivered to Rhode Island today to help health officials conduct beach water quality monitoring and alert beachgoers when conditions are unsafe.
Today, Senator Reed joined with officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Regional Office; the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH); the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM); and the Town of Bristol to discuss the latest efforts to monitor water quality and clean and preserve Rhode Island’s beaches.
“Clean, safe beaches are essential to both our economy and public health. I helped support, pass, and fund the BEACH Act because it helps states and local communities team up to protect swimmers, our waters, and our tourism and recreation industries. As someone who grew up enjoying Rhode Island’s beaches, I’m glad we were able to get this BEACH Act grant for Rhode Island’s Beach Monitoring Program,” said Senator Reed, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee and a former Chairman of the Subcommittee on Interior and Environment, which oversees federal funding of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “There is an old saying: ‘What gets measured gets managed.’ And these federal funds will help Rhode Island actively monitor our water quality to ensure it is safe and clean and keep the public informed. Testing water quality, collecting data, and publicly releasing the results keeps the government accountable for maintaining good water quality. This program ensures people are informed when temporary beach closures are warranted, and it is a smart investment in protecting public health and the health of our waterways.”
Despite the fact that both the Trump and Obama Administrations sought to eliminate BEACH grants to states, Senator Reed has been a leading Congressional champion to restore the funding, which he says is vital to helping states like Rhode Island collect and analyze water samples and keep beachgoers safe from harmful bacteria.
Over the last decade, Senator Reed has delivered more than $2 million in BEACH grant funding for Rhode Island.
The Trump Administration has argued that BEACH Act funds are unnecessary because states, counties, and local governments can adequately continue water monitoring on their own. However, the EPA’s Office of Inspector General recently issued a report showing that documents supporting that decision were inadequate.
Rhode Island’s coastal beach-water quality monitoring program is managed by the Rhode Island Department of Health and works closely with DEM, cities, town, and volunteer groups. During beach season, beach monitors routinely test water quality and provide up-to-date information for beachgoers at: http://www.health.ri.gov/beaches. Beachgoers may also get up-to-date beach information through a recorded message on the Department of Health Beaches Telephone Line at: (401) 222-2751.
Last month, RIDOH detected elevated bacteria counts at Ninigret Pond in Charlestown, Briar Point Beach in Coventry, Camp Watmough’s Beach in Glocester, and Oakland Beach in Warwick and warned swimmers to stay out of the water until it was safe. This week, testing for high bacteria by RIDOH and their community partners led to recommending the closure of Conimicut Point Beach in Warwick for swimming and the reopening of Camp Grosvenor beach in North Kingstown.
Swimming in polluted water can cause illness, skin rashes, and other infections.
During the 2017 Beach Season (from May 30 through August 31), approximately 1,586 samples were collected by RIDOH from 69 licensed saltwater beaches. According to RIDOH, there were a total of 28 closure events resulting in 73 beach closure days in 2017.