MIDDLETOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is providing the Rhode Island Department of Health with $200,000 to ensure safe water quality at beaches statewide.
“Clean and healthy beaches are vital to the prosperity of numerous communities in Rhode Island and are critical to supporting local economies and ecosystems,” EPA New England acting Regional Administrator Deb Szaro said.
The federal grant is part of $1,078,000 the agency is awarding five New England states to improve beach programs.
Szaro said it’s important to monitor water quality in order to protect those who plan to swim and play at the beach.
“We have pipes under the ground, we have urban runoff, we have wildlife and unfortunately wildlife poops,” Szaro said.
Szaro said it’s especially important to take samples in shallow water where children like to swim.
“They are the ones that are probably ingesting most of the water when you are at the beach,” she explained.
In some instances, beaches will close right after rainstorms because the storm runoff can drag in pollutants from the streets, parking lots and other areas that contain trash and urban waste.
Szaro said that is why communicating to the public will be just as important as the water testing itself.
“If we do detect anything at the Department of Public Health, they will put out a public notification so that people know not to go in the water if there is some bacterial contamination,” she said.
Senator Jack Reed, who helped secure the grant, thinks that water testing might not be as rigorous if this federal money was not available
“And that they wouldn’t have the data collection and some of the more sophisticated techniques that they can use because there is a significant federal contribution,” he said.