Waterborne pathogens can contaminate water and sand at beaches and threaten human health. Under the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed limits on pathogens that states use to assess beach water quality. EPA can also provide grants to states to develop water quality monitoring and public notification programs. GAO was asked to assess (1) the extent to which EPA implemented the BEACH Act including how it allocated grants to the states, (2) the monitoring and notification programs developed by Great Lakes states, and (3) the effect of the BEACH Act on water quality monitoring and contamination at Great Lakes beaches.
Matter for Congressional Consideration
|As it considers reauthorization of the BEACH Act, Congress may wish to consider providing EPA some flexibility in awarding BEACH Act grants to allow states to undertake limited research to identify specific sources of contamination at monitored beaches and certain actions to mitigate these problems, as specified by EPA.||In March 2017, GAO reviewed the status of the 2007 Matter for Congressional Consideration. While various bills have been proposed, the BEACH Act has not been reauthorized.|
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Environmental Protection Agency||To ensure that EPA complies with the requirements laid out in the BEACH Act, the Administrator of EPA should establish a definitive time line for completing the studies on pathogens and their effects on human health, and for publishing new or revised water quality criteria for pathogens and pathogen indicators.|
|Environmental Protection Agency||To ensure that EPA complies with the requirements laid out in the BEACH Act, the Administrator of EPA should, if current funding levels remain the same, revise the formula for distributing BEACH Act grants to better reflect the states' varied monitoring needs by reevaluating the formula factors to determine if the weight of the beach season factor should be reduced and if the weight of the other factors, such as beach use and beach miles should be increased.|
|Environmental Protection Agency||To ensure that EPA complies with the requirements laid out in the BEACH Act and to better ensure consistent levels of public health protection, the Administrator of EPA should provide states and localities with specific guidance on monitoring frequency and methods and public notification.|