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EPA has new guidelines on how polluted your beach can be

An environmental lawsuit was recently filed against the very entity that is supposed to protect the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency was targeted for not requiring stricter guidelines for the quality of beach water throughout the country.

The EPA has addressed the matter and come up with some guidance that environmental enthusiasts have been looking for. Following are the new suggested levels of water quality standards that beaches are encouraged to meet:

  • Level of enterococcus bacteria puts 36 out of 1,000 people at risk of pollution-caused illness.
  • Level of enterococcus bacteria puts 32 out of 1,000 people at risk of pollution-caused illness.

To anyone who is not well-versed in environmental and water quality issues, the above guidelines likely sound like gibberish. Essentially, there are water quality tests done on beach waters that detect levels of dangerous bacteria. Those responsible for the tests should know when the levels meet the above guidelines.

Though safety advocates are happy to get some guidance, there is still doubt regarding the EPA's guidelines. For one thing, the suggestions are just that, suggestions. They need only be followed on a voluntary basis. Another point of confusion is why the EPA would give two different levels and not stick to just the safest level.

A source from the EPA says that the level options give beach owners some flexibility in how to run their business. Beaches are not just free, natural places for water and sun lovers to use. They also bring in money. Due to that reality and the already difficult economy, it is probable that beaches will go by the lowest voluntary standard before closing down the beach. And that is if they follow the guidelines at all.

Source: Sun Sentinel, "EPA tightens beach water standards," David Fleshler, Nov. 27, 2012

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