Enjoying Memorial Day at the beach should not make you and your family sick

Enjoying Memorial Day at the beach should not make you and your family sick
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More than 41.5 million Americans are expected to travel over Memorial Day weekend, and for many the journey will end at the coast with a blanket on the sand. 

From Maine and Florida to California and Hawaii, our nation’s beaches draw millions of visitors that keep our coastal economies humming. In fact, recreation and tourism constitute 2.2 million jobs and more than $100 billion in GDP every year. However, our country’s treasured coastlines are being threatened now, more than ever.

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In January of this year, the Trump administration proposed opening up over 90 percent of U.S. coastlines to offshore oil drilling, putting our nation’s economies, jobs, communities and livelihoods at risk of a catastrophic oil spill.

 

At the same time, the federal government is also working to roll back protections put in place after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon drilling rig spilled nearly 5 million barrels of toxic oil over the course of 87 days.

Coastal communities and businesses are fighting back. Across the U.S., over 250 municipalities, 1,200 elected officials, 43,000 businesses and 500,000 fishing families have publicly opposed offshore drilling. 

Meanwhile, nearly all the governors along the East and West coasts — Republicans and Democrats alike — have expressed concerns or opposition to new offshore drilling off their coasts. The communities and citizens who depend on clean coastlines must continue to demand that our government protect them. 

The federal government is also neglecting its responsibility to protect the health of millions of beachgoers who depend on safe water quality at the beach. State and local water quality monitoring programs funded through the EPA keep the public informed on where it’s safe to swim, surf or play in the ocean, with over 20,000 beach closures and advisories issued each year to protect public health.

Yet, President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy Official testifies that Bolton had 'one-on-one meeting' with Trump over Ukraine aid Louisiana governor wins re-election MORE’s budget proposal for 2019 eliminates all funding for the EPA BEACH Grants program, which supports water quality monitoring at popular beaches across the U.S.

Funding for the BEACH Grants program is critical to providing beachgoers with the information they need to avoid getting sick at the beach. The program helps states pay for testing and public notification programs, and often spurs local solutions to pollution problems. If beaches are contaminated and unsafe, it will not only impact families and communities, but also coastal tourism and recreation economies.

With the lack of federal support for the BEACH Grants program, we must stand up and urge Congress to protect clean water and public health. A day at the beach should not make you and your family sick.

We all deserve clean water and healthy beaches to enjoy this holiday weekend and for the future.

Pete Stauffer, environmental director for the Surfrider Foundation, manages national campaigns and programs to address the protection of our ocean, waves and beaches.