Under the new guidelines, the proposal allows for a startling 1 in 28 swimmers to experience some form of gastrointestinal illness. This number is down from 8 in 1,000 from previous regulations, according to the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC).
To make matters worse, the EPA has also limited water quality testing to once per 90-day period. Given that many coastal communities average around 90-day swimming seasons, these parameters make it possible for weeks of heightened bacteria levels to go unnoticed. The new measure also allows for one in every four samples to exceed safe levels.
The NRDC has been the EPA’s most vocal opponent on this issue, even going as far as suing the government agency when they failed to meet a 2005 deadline to update the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act of 2000. The NRDC was successful in gaining a court order to update the measure and establish new guidelines, but the resulting 1-in-28 standard leaves much to be desired.
On the heels of the release of these lackluster regulations, the EPA came out with a study warning that beach sand may contain more bacteria than the water itself, yet another example of why the EPA should be doing more to protect beachgoers rather than finding it okay for 1 in 28 people to become sick from the ocean.
Let the EPA know that these proposed regulations are unacceptable and that they should be increasing beach safety and pollution standards rather than loosening them. You can comment on the proposal until Feb. 21st on the EPA’s website or contact EPA administrator Lisa Jackson directly to voice your concerns.