Friday, July 2, 2010

New Rapid Methods in OC

Water Quality Kiosk on display at Orange County Beaches, photo: OCRegister

There has been some recent media attention paid to a new, rapid water testing and notification system that is being implemented at beaches in Orange County, CA this summer.,0,6214475.story

We've had some questions regarding how Surfrider chapters and activists might be able to get this new system employed at their own local beaches, as it gets water quality information to the public much faster than at most beaches in this country. This new beach monitoring system is part of a demonstration project run by the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project (SCCWRP). Surfrider has been a stakeholder and regular participant in meetings of the Beach Water Quality Workgroup of SCCWRP via Rick Wilson, for about 10 years. Part of the emphasis at SCCWRP for the last several years has been to encourage development, implementation and approval of test methods that are both faster and more accurate predictors of health problems than the current methods.

Should we start seeing these new systems pop up at other beaches soon? Not yet. Orange County and SCCWRP are way ahead of most of the nation in developing these rapid methods. Not only do these methods require a lot of capital do get a lab set up ( we are talking 50k plus), they also require a much higher degree of training on very specific genetic lab methods, that at this point, are not practical for volunteers or even many staff at the state and local health and enviro agencies that conduct beach monitoring programs.

Is this the way of the future? Most likely, but we aren't there yet. EPA has not approved these methods for use yet. EPA does not currently allow federal BEACH Act grant monies to be spent using these new methods. These federal dollars are in some locations are the sole or major source of funding for beach monitoring programs, so we are not at the point where we should be demanding our local authorities to be implementing these new technologies.

What can Surfrider activists do????

Plug into the action alert directed to the Senate to pass the latest version of the Beach Bill, which amongst other things, requires the EPA to approve new rapid testing methods.

There is a previous post on this blog that describes the history of the beach bill, what the new bill is proposing (including rapid methods) and its current status in Congress. This brief post, gives enough good info on this bill for a chapter to dive into this campaign. Quality and timely information on the status of our beach water is relevant everywhere. It is core to what we do.

Meanwhile, while Congress takes its time to reauthorize the BEACH Act, the EPA has been working on revising their water quality standards and approved testing methods as a result of a lawsuit NRDC filed a few years back. Revised water quality criteria and methods are due in the fall of 2012. I will post on EPA's progress towards this end soon.

Contact Mara Dias, to discuss your chapter getting more involved with the Beach Act campaign or improving local beach monitoring programs.

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