Senator Chuck Schumer is pushing to restore $9.9 million in Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act grant funding, which was zeroed out in President Obama’s 2015 budget.
Some of that money would have been used by Nassau and Suffolk counties to monitor water quality and pollution to ensure waters are safe for swimming, particularly at the more than 130 Long Island beaches that have recently been reported by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to have high bacteria levels.
Mr. Schumer, who on July 10 announced his intention to fight for the funding, said that Nassau and Suffolk Counties received about $150,000 of the national grant funding in 2013.
Thirty-five beaches in Nassau County and 103 beaches in Suffolk County are currently listed on the NRDC’s list of polluted beaches. Copiague Harbor has 50 percent of samples exceeding the safety levels set by the NRDC, as does Maidstone Beach in Springs.
Twelve percent of the samples collected at Mattituck’s Veterans Memorial Beach, 11 percent at Mattituck’s Breakwater Beach, 14 percent at Long Beach in Noyac and 33 percent of the samples at Clearwater Beach in Springs have exceeded the NRDC’s standards.
“Long Island’s beaches are great resources that attract swimmers, fishers and boaters, and we simply cannot let federal funding for monitoring contamination and water quality be slashed,” said Mr. Schumer on July 10. “The upcoming budget unacceptably eliminates about $10 million in BEACH Act grant funding, which Nassau and Suffolk Counties have historically relied on to monitor and protect the hundreds of beautiful beaches on Long Island, particularly those prone to high levels of bacteria.”
“Beach Act funding is critical to our beach surveillance program, which tests between 4,000 to 5,000 samples from 190 beaches each summer to ensure that residents and tourists who visit Suffolk County are swimming in waters that are clean and safe,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “This funding is essential to public health and Suffolk County’s economy.”
The BEACH Act was enacted in 2000, and has helped to increase the frequency of water quality monitoring nationwide. The funds can be used for beach monitoring and for public awareness of the problems of swimming in polluted water, which can cause illness, skin rashes and other infections.