Demand States Abide by High Water Quality Standards

Target: Barbara Boxer, Chairman of U.S. Senate Committee on Environmental & Public Works

Goal: Urge U.S. Senate to make it mandatory that individual states adhere to updated water quality guidelines

After two decades, the Environmental Protection Agency has issued new standards for monitoring bacteria levels in inland and coastal waters. The new water quality guidelines highlight specific recommendations that include a rapid testing method of water samples to ensure that public health is protected. Unfortunately, the EPA cannot enforce these new standards on a federal level. Urge individual states to use these new guidelines and improve their water quality standards to prevent contamination of recreational waters.

Several health studies are recognizing a wider range of illnesses caused by bacteria such as E. coli in coastal waters. Recently, developers have been capitalizing on waterfront properties, acknowledging their potential to attract homeowners and buyers. However, with Hurricane Sandy’s damaging effects on nearby sewage treatment plants, people now understand the risk of building near waterways because of possible contamination by bacteria.

An important new recommendation includes a DNA-based method of testing collected water samples. This method allows for faster testing results within hours of the samples being taken, rather than the old method which required a whole day to process. Gregory O’Mullan, professor of microbiology at Queens College, expects this new method will better pinpoint problems and enable a more rapid response in the event of a sewage overflow that might taint the waters where people swim.

The EPA’s decision calls for two thresholds for measuring water quality, one deemed more stringent than the other. Allowing states the ability to choose which criteria they are to use when monitoring their own water quality standards has generated criticism from environmental organizations. The groups are concerned that by giving individual states too much flexibility, states will opt for the less rigid standards. Urge the U.S. Senate Committee on Environmental & Public Works to insist that states abide by the more stringent updated water quality standards in order to properly monitor inland and coastal waterways.


Dear Senator Barbara Boxer,

I am concerned about the quality of water in my area. With the new release of the Environmental Protection Agency’s updated water quality standards, new methods for protecting recreational waterways are available and are highly recommended. These strengthened recommendations include a new DNA-based method of testing water samples along with new tools to predict water quality issues in order to quickly identify sources of pollution.

As you know, these updated standards are very important to make sure that our water is clean and safe to use. However, the EPA cannot enforce any of these improved methods on a federal level, leaving it up to the discretion of individual states to decide how strictly to enforce each policy. Therefore, I urge you to create legislation that mandates states to abide by the newly updated water quality standards, making sure that our waterways are properly monitored for bacteria and pollution.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Chris Downer via


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