Hawaii now in violation
of EPA rules on beaches

After today, 70 percent of the nation's Great Lakes and coastal states, including Hawaii, risk having the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency tell them how they must run state programs to monitor beach water quality.

EPA officials confirmed late yesterday that only nine states have updated their laws fully in accordance with Congress's requirements: Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, Texas and Virginia.

Another 21 of the 30 states with ocean or Great Lake beaches have failed to meet Congress's deadline today for adopting federal health standards that aim to protect swimmers from unsafe levels of contamination.

Those states are Alabama, Alaska, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Washington and Wisconsin.

"We are preparing to issue federal standards for those states that aren't meeting the Beach Act requirements," the agency said in a statement yesterday.

In 2000, Congress required beach states to adopt uniform standards for monitoring the quality of their beach water.

Some of the 21 states not meeting the deadline have made partial progress toward changing their laws, according to EPA and Oceana, an environmental advocacy group.

In New Jersey, for example, lawmakers adopted the recommended standards for their ocean waters but not for Delaware Bay, Oceana said.

EPA's health guidelines recommend that states declare a beach's water quality unsafe if bacteria levels should exceed an amount equivalent to what would probably cause illness in 19 of every 1,000 swimmers.

Marine biologist Jackie Savitz, Oceana's pollution program director, said it is unclear what leverage EPA has to force action, but she noted it has a $10 million-a-year grant program shared by the 30 states.

"EPA could deny them the grant money," Savitz said.


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