SENATOR FRANK R. LAUTENBERG
EPW SUBCOMMITTEE HEARING ON PROTECTING WATER QUALITY AT AMERICA ’S BEACHES
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Let me welcome everyone to today’s hearing as we work to improve the health of our beaches—and protect the safety of the people who enjoy them.
As we work in the Capitol, people are relaxing along our nation’s shores. Even more will do so next week on the 4th of July holiday.
In New Jersey, millions of people visit our shore each year. Their visits generate more than 36 billion dollars for my state’s economy.
Across the country, 180 million people visit America ’s beaches and shores, which employ more than 28 million people.
That is why it is so important that we protect our shores and make sure they are safe for swimming, surfing and other activities.
Unfortunately, sometimes our coastal waters become contaminated.
Human exposure to such pollution can cause all sorts of illnesses, from rashes to respiratory problems.
That’s why Congress passed the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act, or BEACH Act, in 2000.
Representatives Pallone, Bilbray and I worked very hard to pass that law.
It required states to adopt standards for their coastal water and provided grants to states to develop programs for testing the water and notifying the public of any problems.
And our legislation required the EPA to study the health impacts of different pathogens—and ways to rapidly test the water for their presence.
Thanks to the BEACH Act, every coastal state has standards as strong or stronger than EPA’s and every coastal state has a monitoring and notification program.
In May, Congressman Pallone and I introduced a new bill to strengthen the law we wrote in 2000.
Our new bill doubles funding for state grants.
It increases the ability of states to track the pollutants that threaten public health and cause beach closures, and strengthens requirements for informing the public about health risks.
And it requires the EPA to develop rapid testing of beach water, to analyze our water quality in hours, not days.
The original BEACH Act was bi-partisan. I hope we can continue that spirit on this committee with the Beach Protection Act of 2007.
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