To protect the public from illness associated with swimming in potentially contaminated bathing waters.
Water samples are collected by the Department and analyzed for Enterococci bacteria (an indicator organism used to detect the presence of fecal matter in the water column) based upon standards set by Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and US Environmental Protection Agency. Rhode Island’s recreational water use quality standard states: saltwater bathing waters must not exceed a single sample standard of 104 colony forming units (cfu) Enterococci per 100 milliliters (mL) of water, and freshwater bathing waters must not exceed a single sample standard of 61cfu Enterococci per 100 mL of water. Both salt and freshwater beach facilities are required to conduct sampling to ensure safe swimming conditions as part of their recreational licenses.
Stormwater, wastewater, and run-off are all major contributors to poor water quality at licensed beaches. To address this issue the Beach Program works closely with beach owners and managers, cities and towns, and other state agencies to identify and eliminate the sources of contamination.