1999 Beach Monitoring Support
July 2, 1999
Re: Funds for beach testing and finding upstream pollution sources contributing to shellfish bed closures
Boards of Health and other Municipal Officials:
The Buzzards Bay National Estuary Program is pleased to make available $20,000 to assist area Boards of Health and other municipal departments with the following tasks to better protect public health:
1) To perform additional testing of water quality at fresh and saltwater bathing beaches, both public and private.
2) To collect Enterococci bacterial levels at bathing beaches for comparison to fecal coliform bacteria testing (Many states have begun using this test as a better indicator of skin and intestinal ailments associated with swimming at pathogen-contaminated beaches, and the US EPA is promoting this indicator over total coliform bacteria or fecal coliform bacteria monitoring at beaches. The EPA has also approved a new 24-hr Enterococci test methodology to speed health agency responses. Congress is considering legislation requiring a consistent methodology and closure standard and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health is reviewing a proposal to change to the Enterococci methodology. Legislation is also pending in Massachusetts that may require new standards and testing requirements.)
3) To assist towns in identifying upstream sources of pollution contributing to shellfish bed closures and to establish priorities for stormwater remediation. Guidance on this issue can be provided by the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries and the BBP.
4) To collect data for the establishment of rainfall-conditional shellfish bed openings (please consult with your Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries area biologist to ascertain whether potential rainfall conditional areas exist in your community).
5) To conduct daily testing at fresh and saltwater swimming beaches that are affected by runoff pollution to ascertain where automatic rainfall closures are warranted, and for what period of time.
6) To perform split beach sample quality assurance testing of municipal water quality contractors.
These funds are not meant to be used as a mechanism to pay for existing town water quality monitoring efforts, nor for the monitoring of shellfish beds already monitored by the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries except for the purposes of establishing rainfall closures in accordance with DMF guidelines.
Contracts have been established at both the New Bedford Health Department and the Barnstable County Department of Health and the Environment to test water samples for either fecal coliform bacteria or Enterococci or both. Town's may drop water samples directly to the laboratories, or in certain instances, can arrange for a pick-up by a BBP staff member or trained volunteer in accordance with chain of custody procedures. Use of the laboratories must be preapproved by the Buzzards Bay NEP, and this can be done via phone. Buzzards Bay NEP Administrative Assistant Tracy Warncke will act as coordinator between the towns and laboratories. After approval, towns are encouraged to coordinate directly with the respective laboratory. The laboratory contracts have been established to ensure maximum flexibility to meet special needs by participating towns. This includes weekend analyses to evaluate rainfall events or studies of pathogen decline after rainfalls. Town's should consult weather forecasts and notify the Project and participating laboratory in instances where 5 or 7 day continuous sampling is envisioned.
The following Buzzards Bay watershed towns are eligible: Westport, Dartmouth, New Bedford, Acushnet, Fairhaven, Mattapoisett, Rochester, Marion, Wareham, Bourne, and Falmouth. Sites monitored may be either freshwater ponds or coastal waters, but must be in the Buzzards Bay watershed. Stormwater samples and stream surveys may also be included. There will be no charge to municipalities for these services.
More information about this water quality testing program can be found at the Buzzards Bay Project's website, buzzardsbay.org. A training and informational workshop is being planned for July. Please do not hesitate to call me if you have any questions regarding this initiative.
Joseph E. Costa, Ph.D.
addressees: area Boards of Health, Boards of Selectmen, and Public Works Departments