Schumer: Federal Funds to Help Keep Long Island Beaches Clean from Contamination Has Been Zeroed Out In Upcoming Budget

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With Too Many Nassau & Suffolk Beaches Threatened by Poor Water Quality, Senator Pushes to Restore Nearly $10m in ‘Beach Act’ Funding

Washington, DC July 10, 2014 - U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced his push to restore $9.9 million in Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act grant funding which was recently zeroed out in the President’s FY15 budget, and goes toward critical monitoring of water quality and pollution to ensure waters are safe for swimming. This funding is critical in the effort by Nassau and Suffolk Counties to keep swimmers safe by monitoring and testing water, particularly at the over 130 Long Island beaches that were reported to have high bacteria levels by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Schumer said that Nassau and Suffolk Counties received approximately $150,000-worth of this grant funding in 2013, which is critical to monitoring beaches, as well as ensuring that the costs of doing so are not passed on to the municipality and taxpayer.
 
Schumer noted examples of Long Island beaches that were recently found to have high contamination levels, and noted that federal funding contributed to their monitoring and detection. Thirty five beaches in Nassau County and 103 beaches in Suffolk County are currently listed on the National Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) compilation of beaches that have more than zero percent of samples exceeding Beach Action Values (BAV). Suffolk County’s Copiague Harbor has 50 percent of samples exceeding BAV, as does Suffolk County’s Maidstone Beach. Nassau’s Beekman Beach has 27 percent of samples exceeding BAV. In fact, last week the Nassau County Department of Health closed 11 beaches to swimming due to high bacteria levels. Schumer today explained that funding in the BEACH Act would help localities, like Long Island, continue their beach water quality monitoring programs.
 
“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 Schumer. “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. This cannot stand and I am calling on Senate Appropriators to restore the $9.9 million BEACH Act so that Long Islanders can rest assured that their beaches will be safe and that they will not be forced to cover the cost.”
 
"BEACH Act funds support important environmental monitoring. Protecting the safety of beach goers is a top priority and I thank Senator Schumer for his efforts in restoring these critical funds,” County Executive Ed Mangano stated.
 
“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. This funding is essential to public health and Suffolk County’s economy,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.
 
The BEACH Act was enacted in 2000 and has since increased the frequency of water quality monitoring nationwide. Overall, BEACH Act grant funding helps state governments develop and implement programs to inform the public about the risk of bacteria in the water at beaches. Funds can be used for beach monitoring as well as public awareness of the problem. Swimming in polluted water can cause illness, skin rashes and other infections. The number of monitored beaches more than tripled to over 3,600 in 2010.
 
Last year, New York State received $330,000 to help run their beach monitoring programs. Since the start of the program, New York State has received over $5 million to help fund beach monitoring programs. Specifically, Nassau County receives approximately $45,000 in BEACH funds, which covers the majority of the cost in an average rainfall summer. Suffolk County receives $95,890 in BEACH funds. Schumer today urged the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies to fund the BEACH Act grant program in FY2015 at $9.9 million, the appropriations level provided in recent years. Schumer today explained that this funding would help Long Island significantly improve its efforts to monitor water quality conditions and identify contamination in public waters.
 
Beach monitoring funding is critical. According to NRDC most recent full-season data from 2013, 35 beaches in Nassau County had more than zero percent of samples exceeding the BAV threshold. Specifically, Beekman Beach has 27 percent of samples exceeding BAV; Jones Beach’s Zach’s Bay has 21 percent of samples exceeding BAV; Incorporated Village of Laurel Hollow has 20 percent of samples exceeding BAV.
 
According to NRDC most recent full-season data from 2013, 103 beaches in Suffolk County have more than zero percent of samples exceeding the BAV threshold. Specifically, Copiague Harbor has 50 percent of samples exceeding BAV; Maidstone Beach has 50 percent of samples exceeding BAV; Benjamins Beach has 36 percent of samples exceeding BAV.
 
Last week, the Nassau County Department of Health closed eleven beaches to swimming due to high bacteria levels. The beaches included: Centre Island Sound, Creek Club, Lattingtown Beach, Laurel Hollow Beach, Piping Rock Beach Club, Pryibil Beach, Ransom Beach, Theodore Roosevelt Beach, Soundside Beach, Stehli Beach and Biltmore Beach Club. According to NRDC, Biltmore Beach has 18 percent of samples exceeding BAV; Centre Island Sound has 11 percent of samples exceeding BAV; Lattingtown Beach has 11 percent of samples exceeding BAV.
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