Splash Time

As I happened to be in Long Beach, Calif., last week on business, I decided to check it out. Mind you, I have never forgotten the time I visited Southern California and I was so excited about seeing the Pacific Ocean. I ran straight from the parking lot right into the water—only to be told by a lifeguard to get out. Apparently there had been a sewage spill, he said.

So you can imagine that I was not in any hurry this time.

It was an 80-degree Wednesday afternoon and about 50 people were either sitting in the sand, splashing in the surf, or fishing from a jetty. A flock of gulls were playing soccer (or maybe they thought the ball was a giant orange).

From what I could see, it was a carefree summer day. But what was there that I couldn't see…

EPA recently publicized its beach program, which includes a rapid test method, shellfish bed and dissolved oxygen monitoring, beach monitoring and notification. This information came from Region 2, which covers New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Naturally, I wanted to know what was going on in Region 9, which covers California, Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada, and the Pacific Islands.

Terry Fleming, Region 9 EPA environmental scientists and beach coordinator, was reassuring. Fleming said that California received more than $500,000 per year for the last six years for its beach program. County-level environmental health services sample, analyze, and interpret the tests and make the decision on keeping the beach open or closing it.

He also said that "California does more sampling than any other state, and in terms of protection, California has the most conservative approach." Fleming explained that if the sampling results in an exceedence of any of the four criteria, then county authorities issue advisories. This information is sent to the public through beach signage, telephone hotlines, radio announcements, the Web, and more.

Looks like next time there's a problem, I will know before I get my feet wet.

Posted by L.K. Williams, EPonline on Jul 02, 2008