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State Looks To Improve Beach Advisories

NHDES

The state Department of Environmental Services wants to make its beach safety advisories more timely and accurate this summer.

As of midday Friday, DES had advisories posted for at least eight New Hampshire lakes.

Those denote findings of high levels of fecal bacteria or toxic algae at public swimming areas near Nashua, Manchester, Laconia and Berlin.

State beach program coordinator Amanda McQuaid works with state health officials to sample more than 200 coastal and inland beaches regularly throughout the summer.

"We do the muscle, and they do the lab part and tell us where there's really high bacteria,” she says. “And then we are the messengers and we try to get the word out."

New Hampshire also just got its annual federal grant for beach monitoring – nearly $200,000.

But McQuaid says there’s still a day's lag between sampling, getting the results and posting a public advisory.

“So it doesn’t pinpoint how the conditions are when you’re actually there at the beach,” she says. “It’s sort of like, well, this is yesterday.”

So McQuaid says this year, they're working with other state and federal scientists to search for better environmental indicators that could predict hazards more quickly.

Towns must volunteer their beaches for the monitoring program, and local officials are responsible for posting any warning signs.

Annie has covered the environment, energy, climate change and the Seacoast region for NHPR since 2017. She leads the newsroom's climate reporting project, By Degrees.
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