EPA signs bacteria rule for water quality
Published November 9th, 2004
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) put into effect
Monday new bacteria criteria for Alaska's marine waters.
Alaska is one of 22 coastal and Great Lakes states that
have not yet adopted EPA's recommended bacteria criteria
for its water quality standards by April 10, 2004, as
required by the federal Beaches Environmental Assessment
and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act of 2000. EPA's action will
have minimal impact in Alaska.
The Beach Act was enacted largely because of concerns
about sewage contaminated water at high use recreational
beaches. Compared to the states for which this act was
created, Alaska has very few recreational beaches that
are heavily impacted by humans. Though adjustments are
required to bring Alaska's water quality standards in
line with national criteria, Alaska's current standard
is protective of beach users.
The new federal requirement is based upon research that
suggests the pathogen enterococci, rather than fecal coliform,
is a better indicator of whether people would become ill
when exposed to contaminated recreational waters. The
EPA rule requires states to use the enterococci indicator.
Alaska's current standard is based on the criterion for
shellfish harvesting use, which is more protective than
the water recreation criteria in the new federal rule.
"We are confident that Alaska's beaches are safe
for public use and that working closely with EPA will
again find us well within that protective threshold,"
said Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Acting
Commissioner Kurt Fredriksson.
"Alaska began developing a state specific recreational
criterion for bacteria earlier this year. However, like
many other states, Alaska decided it should wait until
EPA clarifies its expectations through this new rule,"
said Nancy Sonafrank, DEC's water quality standards section
EPA's action does not prevent states from adopting criteria
based upon EPA guidance, which may replace this federal
rule with EPA's approval.