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Don't Flush Our Oceans Down the Drain- What's Up With the B.E.A.C.H. Bill?

MAKING WAVES, June/July 1998

A National Call-In Day in support of the BEACH Bill is scheduled for Thursday, July 16. American Oceans Campaign and Surfrider Foundation encourage you to contact your Representative and Senators and urge them to co-sponsor the bills. If your member is already on the bill, please thank him or her. For additional information on how you can help the BEACH Bill or other information on AOC or Surfrider Foundation activities, contact Ted Morton of American Oceans Campaign (202) 544-3526 (aoctm@wizard.net) or Michelle Kremer of Surfrider Foundation (949)492-8170 (mkremer@surfrider.org).

Please Call Your Congressional Representatives and urge them to support the BEACH Bill:
   U.S. Capitol Switchboard: (202) 224-3121

B.E.A.C.H. Bill:

On June 26, 1997, Representatives in the House introduced H.R. 2094, the Beaches Environmental Assessment , Closure and Health Act (the "BEACH BILL") to "amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to direct the Administrator to publish and revise regulations requiring monitoring of, and specifying methods to be used by States to monitor, coastal recreation waters at public beaches for compliance with water quality criteria and protection of public safety." On the same day, Senators introduced the same BEACH Bill in the U.S. Senate, S. 971.
    One year later, many are wondering where the bill is and if we have made any progress toward achieving a nationwide beach water quality testing program to protect public health and to support the public's right to know about beach water safety. Well, as of June 1, 1998, the bad news is that 12 of the 22 coastal surfing states have not had a single Representative sign up as co-sponsors for H.R. 2094 (slacker states are: AL, AK, DE, FL, HI, LA, NH, NC, SC, TX, VA, and WA), while 10 other states have numerous co-sponsors (good states are: CA, CT, GA, MA, MD, ME, NJ, NY, OR, and RI). The news is not bad in the Senate, but only 2 coastal states having Senators co-sponsoring S. 971 (CA & NJ). But hey, as of May 1998, the H.R. 2094 co-sponsorship list has grown to 43 on the House side and is gaining momentum. Let's step up the effort and rally every state to have a Representative sign up as co-sponsors.
    I think most of us know by now that many beach waters are contaminated by pathogens (disease-causing microorganisms) found in human and animal waste, and that there are no federal requirements for monitoring recreational beaches for pathogen contamination to ensure the water is safe for swimming, surfing, and other activities. There are seven states that comprehensively monitor all of their beaches (CT, DE, IL, IN, NH, NJ, OH & NY). However, many coastal states use different standards and monitoring protocols, and posting of hazards. There are also eight coastal states that lack any regular beach water quality monitoring (AL, GA, LA, MS, NC, OR, SC and WA).
    Even with the EPA minimum requirements for safe recreational water as a guide, many states are reluctant to start testing programs, It is time for a comprehensive national program to protect beach goers from potential health risks associated with swimming and surfing in polluted waters. The BEACH Bill calls for more extensive monitoring for harmful contaminants and assures the public of its right to know whether a day of playing in the ocean could potentially lead to illness.
    Over the past few months, American Oceans Campaign, local Surfrider Foundation Chapters, and several other Clean Water Network activists have been working to increase the number of co-sponsors for H.R. 2094 and S. 971. Since January '98, American Oceans Campaign has met with more than 60 offices about the Bill and with some continued grass-roots support, we have added 27 Reps and 1 Senator in 1998. The American Oceans Campaign website (http://www.americanoceans.org) has an up-to-date list of co-sponsors. You can also check it out with the direct link to Congress at "http://thomas.loc.gov" to get more specifics about H.R. 2094 and S. 971, and to find out how to contact your Representative and Senator.
    The bills have been referred to House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. The Committee Chairman have the authority to hold hearings and begin moving the bills, but since it is closely tied to the Clean Water Act, no hearings have yet been scheduled. The Clean Water Act reauthorization is unlikely to happen this Congress since there are not many legislative days left for the 105th Congress, and no reauthorization bill has been introduced to date.


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