Last Tuesday the EPA announced its commitment to making the nation’s beaches clean and safe for swimmers. The “new” plan basically entails enforcing laws and programs already on the books – programs, I might add, that Congress and the Administration have thus far neglected to adequately fund. When it passed the B.E.A.C.H. Act in 2000, Congress authorized $30 million for beach programs and grants. This administration has never asked for more than $10 million, and despite the new promise to ramp up attention to beach water quality it hasn’t proposed any funding increase in the FY 05 budget.
The EPA is flexing its muscles and threatening to step in to set water safety standards for states that don’t comply with B.E.A.C.H. Act rules, as it should, but with only one third of the money they need for testing and monitoring, beach states are in a tough place. If the Administration is serious about cleaning up beach water it should fully fund the B.E.A.C.H. Act for 2005 and strengthen – not weaken – pollution control measures that tackle the problem at its source.