Coastal Beaches Program
The Maine Healthy Coastal Beaches Program is providing the State of Maine with a
system to monitor public beaches and notify the public when there is a
potentially hazardous condition.
The Maine Healthy Coastal Beaches Program ensures healthy, informed
opportunities for swimming and other recreational water activities along the
coast of Maine. Monitoring coastal water quality for swimming and other water
contact usage is the responsibility of the local jurisdiction, municipality, or State Park. It is not a
mandated requirement from the State, nor does the State of Maine monitor public
beaches other than those of their ownership.
Maine has 46 public beaches and recreational waters on its coast, of which 37 of
these are participating in the Maine Healthy Coastal Beaches Program. The Maine
Healthy Coastal Beaches Program is currently monitoring these waters, educating
the public about potential health risks at these waters, and notifying the
public when a disease-causing microorganism is present and may pose a health
Maine’s Healthy Coastal Beaches Program will provide a current list
of coastal beach advisories from participating towns/State Parks throughout the
state. To view current beach advisories, go to Today’s
Advisories are Determined
Beach advisories are posted according to:
- Results obtained from bacteria water quality samples exceed State and Federal standards.
- Conditions at sample site indicating the possible presence of disease-causing organisms.
Also, a decision to close or post beaches is based upon a
tool for beach manager to use for ongoing management
decisions. (Risk-Based Assessment Matrix)
These advisories are recommendations to the public to avoid water contact activities
at the beach until further analyses reveal safe conditions.
Beaches are not “closed” simply on the exceedance of the bacterial count,
but on the Risk Assessment Matrix factors which includes bather numbers, time
of last rainfall, and history of known problems. This is a coordinated decision
between the Beach Manager, Program Coordinator, and State Epidemiologist.
The town/State Park beach managers may use their own discretion to actively
close a beach to the public. The municipality/State Park must notify the Maine
Healthy Coastal Beaches Program of their intentions to close or put up an
advisory at a particular beach by indicating this on the on-line database.
The Healthy Coastal Beaches Program has produced a sign with attachments for
advisory or closure to indicate a beach advisory.
Click here to view samples of the signs.
Water Quality Standards
In compliance with US Environmental Protection Agency standards, the exceedance criteria, or level at which a sample fails, is 104 Enterococci
bacteria per 100 milliliters of sample water, or Enterococci levels exceed the
geometric mean of 35 counts of Enterococci per 100 mL of water in at least five
samples collected over a 30-day period. This is one consideration for placing
advisories at the beach. For the other considerations for advising against
recreational water activities or for closing a beach click on
How Beach Advisories are Determined.
the town/State Park follow-up on beach advisories?
The town/State Park participating in the HCB Program will in most cases
immediately resample all beaches upon issuing an advisory. Once it has been
determined that the concentration of bacteria is within the state standard, the
advisory signs will be removed from the beach area.
Also, any listings for beach advisories that were placed on the HCB
or Earth 911 websites will be updated.
I know if it’s safe to swim at my local beach?
There are several ways to determine whether it’s safe to swim at a beach.
- Check the Today’s Beach Status to see if the beach is listed. For further
information, contact the Maine Healthy Coastal Beaches Program.
- Contact the local beach manager for that town or State Park. Staff will be able
to give you information on whether the beach is part of the Healthy Coastal
Beaches Program and if water quality is monitored at that beach.
- Look for any
advisory/closure signs or other signs posted at the beach entrance or on the
lifeguard stands. If there are no advisories (orange) or closures (red) posted,
but there is
an open (green) sign, this will indicate that this beach is open for
- Contact your local health official. A health official may be able to inform
you whether a beach advisory has been posted at the beach you plan to visit.
EPA BEACH Act
EPA amended the Federal Water Pollution Control Act in order to further improve
water quality and protect public health at coastal recreational waters. As a
result, the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act (BEACH Act)
was signed into law on October 10, 2000. The BEACH Act provides funds for
coastal and Great Lakes states to design and implement water quality monitoring
programs. EPA awarded a grant to the Maine Coastal Program of the State
Planning Office to develop and implement Maine’s coastal beach monitoring
Purpose of the Act
The BEACH Act was designed to help states monitor their public beaches for
disease-causing microorganisms and to notify the public when a potential health
risk is present. Coastal and Great Lakes states may apply for funding to
monitor recreational waters through this program. Each state must establish
monitoring and notification programs that are consistent with the performance
criteria in EPA’s National Beach Guidance and Required Performance
Criteria for Grants.
© 2004 Maine Healthy Beaches. All rights reserved.