EPA initiated the Beaches Environmental Assessment, Closure, and Health (BEACH) Program in response to the growing concern about public health risks posed by polluted bathing beaches. Scientific evidence documenting the rise of infectious diseases caused by microbial organisms in recreational waters continues to grow. For example, a recent epidemiological study in Santa Monica Bay, Califormia, documented an increased risk of illness associated with swimming near storm drains. The number of beach closures reported every year is also on the rise. To counteract this growing problem and to ensure public notification when they may be at risk of illness and disease, we have established this national program to protect public health at our nation's beaches.