Maine Health Beaches Logo Advice Photo

See Today's
Beach Status and Data

Maine Healthy
Coastal Beaches

How Beach Advisories
are Determined

Beach Program Water
Quality Standards

How does the town/State Park
follow-up on beach advisories?

How will I know if it’s safe
to swim at my local beach?


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Lincolnville Beach


Maine Healthy 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 risk.

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 Beach Status.

How Beach 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.

Beach Program 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.

How does 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.

How will 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 recreation.
  • 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 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 program.

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.