N.J. groups seek more federal funds for ocean-water testing

Activists in New Jersey are urging Congress to strengthen the Beach Act that governs ocean-water testing.

Federal funding has been cut for state grants to pay for testing that detects pollution and determines when beaches should be closed to swimmers.

That worries John Weber with the Surfrider Foundation. He’s hoping federal lawmakers will approve $40 million for the program.

“Even if people have never gone to NJBeaches.org and looked at the actual results, they do have this vague sense that their government is testing and the water is safe and if it’s not it would get posted,” Weber said. “We can’t afford to have that all go away. That is going to lead to uncertainty and it’s going to be bad. It’s not going to bring tourists to the beach.”

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Without the grant money, activists are concerned there will be less testing. They’re calling for stricter testing standards, more rapid test results, and an expansion of the program to track down the source of pollution.

U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone is in their corner.

“There are areas that are not officially designated as bathing beaches that won’t be covered,” he said. “Obviously any efforts to promote this more, maintain a good website, do more tracking — which we’re proposing to find the sources of pollution — without the grants less and less of that will occur.”

Pallone, D-N.J., says it can now take 24 hours for test results to determine that a beach should be closed to swimmers because of water pollution.

“What’s in this bill is a provision that says that more rapid testing has to take place that would require that the beaches are closed … and then reopened again if it’s improved within six hours,” he said. “That more rapid testing is available. It should be used.”

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