After the President surprised us all last year with his proposal to eliminate all federal funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Beach Grants program, we were able to find some support for this invaluable public health program in the US Senate, and level funding was included in the Continuing Resolution that the federal government will be operating under for the rest of this fiscal year.
With an annual appropriation of just under $10 million, states use their annual beach grants to fund beach water testing and public notifications programs to protect the health of the beach-going public as well as the security of their coastal tourism economies; economies that are worth over $60 billion across the country.
The President’s budget for FY2014 was released just this week and once again fails to include any funding to support beach water testing programs. We can’t help but wonder how this pennywise but pound-foolish decision can help balance our budget. The public health cost of gastrointestinal illnesses caused by swimming at polluted beaches has been estimated at $21 – $51 million in LA and Orange Counties alone. Expand that cost to cover the entire US coast, and take away much of the water testing information that we have available to us today as is proposed by the President’s budget, and that number will be astronomical. In comparison, $10 million spread out among 35 coastal states and territories seems to be a small and wise investment to protect the over 100 million visitors to US beaches every year. Read more about the health and economic impacts of beach pollution here. Surfrider will continue to work to build support for the Beach Grant program. A family should have the right to know if a day at the beach could make them sick.
For background on this issue click here