President Trump's budget would eliminate Florida's Healthy Beaches bacteria monitoring

Time and money may be running out for the program that tells you if it's safe to go to the beach.

President Donald Trump's proposed budget for 2018 would eliminate funding for Environmental Protection Agency grants that pay for the Florida Healthy Beaches program, which measures bacteria from fecal contamination at beaches and rivers.

The state health department has received $495,000 from the EPA to fund the program until Aug. 1, spokeswoman Mara Gambineri said in an email. The state is scheduled to receive $445,000 to pay for it until August 2018.

"We have not received word that our grant will be affected after the grant cycle in 2018," Gambineri wrote. "Should the grant opportunity not continue in the future, the department will consider alternative funding options."

The health department's county offices conduct the tests and post the results on their websites. In 2016, the Florida Healthy Beaches Program posted 153 avoid-water advisories.

The tests measure levels of enteric bacteria, which inhabit the intestinal tracts of humans and animals.The bacteria in water is an indication of fecal pollution.

Ingesting or contacting contaminated water can cause upset stomach, diarrhea, eye irritation and skin rashes.

Congress decides

Although Trump has proposed cutting the program, Congress ultimately decides on appropriations.

The water monitoring program also was on the chopping block in former President Barack Obama's proposed budgets, and Congress always put it back. A House appropriations bill for Interior and Environment includes full funding for the program through September 2019.

That bill has been supported by Republican U.S. Reps. Brian Mast, who represents the Treasure Coast, and Bill Posey, who represents Indian River and Brevard counties.

“As anybody who lives on the Treasure Coast knows, our beaches are central to our way of life," Mast, of Palm City, said in a prepared statement. "In addition to the obvious benefit of having clean beaches to use, there is clearly a connection between protecting our beaches and protecting our coastal economy.”

Posey, of Rockledge, is "certainly pleased" funding for the program is in the House bill, said spokesman George Cecala. "It's an important program. In Brevard County, the beaches always test safe, but there are areas where the public needs to know if it's safe to go to the beach or not." 

© Gannett Co., Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved


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