MHB or Maine Healthy Beaches program had been launched as partnership between local municipalities and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. It has been funded by the EPA or US Environmental Protection Agency using the BEACH Act, 2000. The idea behind the program was to monitor the quality of Maine waters and protect people’s health. This program encompasses more than 60 beaches, starting from Kittery to the Acadia National Park, covering almost 200 miles.
MHB program sough to keep Maine’s saltwater beaches clean and safe. To this effect, it brings together many communities that work together to monitor the water quality and notify people of any health risks. It is their job to teach visitors and residents about steps to take to protect the beaches and keep them healthy.
Whether it is safe to swim at a beach or not can be a question bothering tourists and residents. This program funded by the federal government seeks to ensure that the beaches stay free from bacteria which can trigger diseases and illness. With the EPA’s guidance, it has determined that when salt water has more than 104 Enterococci in every teaspoon it is capable of causing gastrointestinal problems, ear and eye irritations. According to the Beach Act Maine gets almost $250,000 every year to assess and notify people of health hazards in the waters.
The public swim beaches are regularly monitored for bacteria during the peak seasons, which usually last from the Memorial Day weekend to the Labor Day weekend. They use EPA-approved quality assurance and quality control methods. So, all volunteer groups and state parks work together to notify the people if there are prevailing unhealthy conditions. There is an online database that state park official and beach managers can access. This contains all relevant information about water monitoring data. Using this information they can decide whether to post advisories. The public, on its part, can view this information on the website before heading to the beaches in Maine.
Besides monitoring the quality of water for almost 43 beaches in state parks and municipalities, this program has trained beach monitors and conducted field training for quality control purposes. It has collected and assesses thousands of samples and organized problem-solving meetings to handle bacteria levels or pollution-related problems.
Currently, the state parks and town that are part of the MHB are held responsible for overseeing their beaches every week. They can use state part staff and local volunteers for the job. If the bacteria level is deemed to have gone up, the schedules can be intensified. They are even made to collect samples from nearby water bodies like streams or rivers which can impact the beach water.
The state park official together with MHB staff chooses the sites to be monitored in every beach. This is decided according to recommendations from the EPA; they usually include places where people swim and freshwater inputs. All the information gathered by officials is then uploaded onto the Maine Coast Data database. If samples are found to exceed the safe bacteria limit, email alerts will be sent automatically to the beach managers and local state park officials. Following this, there must be re-sampling of the waters by the officials. On receiving the alert, local beach managers usually consult with the MHB staff about whether to issue advisories or not.