Menendez and Pallone Announce Introduction of BEACH Act Reauthorization

Menendez and Pallone Announce Introduction of BEACH Act Reauthorization

Legislation will Help Protect Public’s Health at New Jersey Beaches

LONG BRANCH, NJ – As thousands of residents and tourists flock to New Jersey’s beaches as summer comes to a close, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D NJ) and Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) today in Long Branch announced their plans to introduce the BEACH Act of 2015. The bill sets national water quality standards and provides states with grants to test water quality and notify the public when conditions are unsafe. The legislation seeks to reauthorize the Beach Act grants originally established in 2000 by a bill authored by Pallone and late-Senator Frank Lautenberg. Menendez and Pallone will introduce the legislation when Congress returns from recess in September.

“The BEACH Act is really about accepting our responsibilities as stewards of our incredible coastal environment and what it means to all of us,” said Sen. Menendez. “It’s about doing all we can to keep it as we remember it so that future generations will have the same wonderful experiences we have had. And, it’s about making sure that if you’re spending a day out on the water and bringing your family to the beach, you’ll never have to question whether the water is safe enough for your children to swim.”

“Clean, safe and healthy beaches are vital to our state’s economy and give beachgoers the peace of mind they need to enjoy this incredible resource,” said Rep. Pallone. “My bill with Senator Lautenberg was an important step to keep beaches clean and safe, and now, more than 15 years later, I am proud to introduce this bill with Senator Menendez to reauthorize and strengthen the original legislation.”

“People have the right to know that the waters that they are swimming in are safe, and the BEACH Act of 2000 required a standard national testing program and beach closures for contaminated areas,” said Cindy Zipf, Executive Director of Clean Ocean Action. “However, today the BEACH Act is now 15 years old, and needs to be updated to require faster testing and reporting, tests after storms, and permanent funding. Protecting swimmers from sewage and other dangerous water conditions should not fall prey to the whims of Washington, nor should a beach day turn into a sick day.”

Under the BEACH Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required to work with states to ensure they use the latest science to sample and test beach waters to protect the public's health. If tests come back positive for contaminants then the state is required to close the beach until it is clean. 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.

The reauthorization legislation mandates the use of rapid testing methods by requiring EPA to approve methods that detect water contamination in two hours or less so that beaches can be closed shortly thereafter. Current water quality monitoring tests only test for bacteria levels and take 24 to 48 hours to produce reliable results, during which time many beachgoers can be unknowingly exposed to harmful pathogens.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council’s annual analysis of water quality data, 10 percent of all samples exceeded EPA’s benchmark for assessing swimmer safety. Furthermore, EPA has estimated that up to 3.5 million people become sick from contact with raw sewage from sanitary sewer overflows each year.

Menendez and Pallone were joined at a press conference this morning by Clean Ocean Action Executive Director Cindy Zipf.

Each summer, tourism at New Jersey's beaches produces $36 billion in economic activities and supports nearly 500,000 jobs.