If one part of President Obama’s proposed 2014 budget makes it into law, you could be swimming in sewage next summer when you go to the beach.
For the second year in a row, the White House has proposed slashing funding for the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act, which enables state and local governments to test water quality for potentially harmful pollutants and pathogens.
Congress reinstated the funds for FY 2013, but in this season of austerity, the program’s $10 million budget may get the axe this time around. The White House said in a statement accompanying the budget that the Beach grant program, which Congress passed in 2000, is one of several EPA programs that are “underperforming or can be implemented through other Federal or State efforts.”
Advocates for the program, including the non-profit Surfrider Foundation, disagree.
“We’ve spoken to representatives from several different state agencies across the country over the past year, and they are deciding which beaches to stop testing, which staff to lay off, and if they can keep their water testing labs running at all with these looming budget cuts,” said Surfrider Foundation's water quality manager Mara Dias in a statement.
According to a 2012 report by the National Resources Defense Council, sewage overflows send 3 billion to 10 billion gallons of untreated waste into the nation’s waterways and oceans every year, causing waterborne diseases like giardia, and afflicting millions with gastrointestinal distress and respiratory problems. Contamination from runoff and algal blooms also threaten beachgoers, and can even kill wildlife.
In 2011 there were 23,481 beach closures and advisory days due to pollution, according to the same report.