Recreational use of water with microbial contamination can pose health risks to swimmers and others. As a result, beach water quality is regulated to protect public health. In Massachusetts, bathing beach water quality is regulated by M.G.L. C.111 and other regulations to establish minimum standards for bathing beaches.
Local boards of health (LBH) and the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) conduct the vast majority of beach water sampling in Massachusetts. Most of the samples are analyzed at private labs, while some are analyzed at municipal facilities.
In 2000, the U.S. Congress enacted the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act to improve the quality of coastal recreational waters. The BEACH Act seeks to reduce the risk of disease to users of the Nation’s marine recreational waters through the identification of high-risk beaches, identification and mitigation of sources of pollution, and notification/risk communication to the public. In late 2001, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) was awarded funding from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) that partially support Departmental efforts to develop a bathing beaches inventory and communicate results of beach monitoring to the general public.
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