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New Recreational Water Quality Criteria Recommended

New Recreational Water Quality Criteria Recommended


On November 26, 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommended that states need to harness new and improved water quality criteria and testing for recreational water areas.  The recommendations were made with favor from a U.S. District Court and requirements under the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act of 2000. 

The new water quality criteria will make sure visitors are protected as they visit beaches and other bodies of water throughout the year.  The criteria can better protect the public and quality of water by observing waterborne illnesses more efficiently, measuring water pollution after heavy rainfalls more quickly, and more. 

It is important to note that the recommended criteria do not mandate new requirements.  The recommendations simply serve as an example of tools that states can choose to adopt in their overall standards and state or territorial environmental protection agencies.

The new criteria provide states and communities with the most updated scientific information about particular areas, particularly public water bodies like beaches.  The updated information can help the state or community issue a beach, lake, or stream closure more quickly. 

The new criteria were established by the EPA after several scientific and health studies confirmed some waterborne illnesses (including some stomach illnesses) can occur without a fever.  The period required for monitoring water samples was reduced from 90 day to 30 days.  The new water quality data will create more accurate water trends and improve advisories. 

Some of the other recommendations include the following:

·  short-term and long-term testing of bacteria levels in water

·  improved recommendations for coastal waters to make sure public health is protected equally in coastal and fresh waters

·  a quicker water-testing method that allows the state to see if the water is safe within hours

·  tools that can predict problems with water quality and find sources of pollution quickly

The increased testing of bacteria levels was recommended because the criteria in 1986 called for a certain amount of testing depending on the beach usage.  The new recommendations replaced the testing/intensity standard and recommended a precautionary testing method for states. 

Predictive modeling will pair with epidemiological studies and other information like microbial risk assessments to predict outbreaks in the future.  The new and faster testing method recommended by the EPA uses a quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) and a quick analytical technique to detect a type of bacteria called curable enterococci. 

Source: Environmental Protection Agency