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General Laws

Section 5S. (a) As used in this section, the following words shall have the following meanings:—

“Bathing water”, fresh or salt water adjacent to any public bathing beach or semi-public bathing beach in the commonwealth.

“Department”, the department of public health.

“Public bathing beach”, a beach open to the general public, whether or not an entry fee is charged, that permits access to bathing waters.

“Semi-public bathing beach”, a bathing beach used in connection with a hotel, motel, trailer park, campground, apartment house, condominium, country club, youth club, school, camp or similar establishment where the primary purpose of the establishment is not the operation of the bathing beach, and where admission to the use of the bathing beach is included in the fee paid for use of the premises. A semi-public bathing beach shall also include a bathing beach operated and maintained solely for the use of members and guests of an organization that maintains such a bathing beach.

(b) The department, in consultation with local health officers, shall establish minimum sanitation standards to protect bathing waters from contamination from the following: (1) sludge deposits and solid refuse; (2) floating solid, grease or scum wastes; (3) oil, hazardous material, and heavy metals; and (4) bacteria, including but not limited to, total coliform, fecal coliform and enterococci bacteria.

(c) Such standards shall establish safe levels of human exposure to such contaminants, and shall further incorporate, at a minimum, the following provisions:—

(1) An officer or an agent of a local board of health shall test, monitor and analyze all bathing waters within its municipality. Every local board of health shall report the results from all testing, monitoring and analysis of bathing waters to the department. The department shall establish such reporting requirements and shall keep public records thereof. The department shall issue an annual report on the state of beach water quality using data that has been reported to the department. The department shall make such data available to the public upon written request.

(2) The department shall determine at which sites to conduct testing and monitoring of bathing waters. The department shall consider, but not be limited to, the following factors in determining at which sites to conduct testing and monitoring of bathing waters: (i) prior testing results pursuant to this section for such bathing waters; (ii) the number of people who use the bathing beach annually; and (iii) whether the beach is located adjacent to a storm water drain, sewage, industrial and commercial wastewater discharges, or commercial, industrial and agricultural drains.

(d) The department shall determine at what frequency to conduct testing, monitoring and analysis of bathing waters. Testing, monitoring and analysis shall be conducted on at least a weekly basis during the bathing season, and at such times and under such conditions as shall be sufficient to protect public health and safety. The department may grant a variance from the weekly testing requirement for a public or semi-public bathing beach only where there is a documented history of no sources of pollution, both point and non-point, at the bathing beach, or where such pollution sources at the beach have been fully and completely remediated.

(e) The department shall require the posting of conspicuous warning signs to notify the public whenever there is a threat to human health or safety in bathing waters. Signs shall be posted at locations on the beach that are visible to the public in order to inform the public of the nature of the problem and the possibility of a threat to human health and safety. Signs shall be posted immediately after significant rainstorms at bathing beach locations where there has been a chronic history of violations of the department’s minimum sanitation standards for bathing beaches after such rainstorms. When an officer or agent of a local board of health discovers a violation of such minimum sanitation standards, the officer or agent shall notify the department immediately, and in no event not later than 24 hours after such discovery. The local board of health shall also post signs immediately, and in no event not later than 24 hours after such a discovery.

(f) A person may request that a local board of health conduct testing, monitoring and analysis of bathing waters when there is a reasonable basis to believe that an alleged violation of such minimum sanitation standards established by this section has occurred. Local boards of health shall promptly review such requests and determine whether any such testing, monitoring and analysis is necessary to ensure the public health and safety in bathing waters.

(g) The owners of semi-public bathing beaches shall be required to pay for the costs of testing, monitoring and analysis of bathing waters adjacent to such semi-public bathing beaches.

(h) Local boards of health may enter into contractual agreements with owners of semi-public bathing beaches where the local board of health conducts testing, monitoring and analysis of such bathing waters.

(i) A municipality or state agency may adopt sanitation standards and testing, monitoring, and analysis requirements for bathing waters within its jurisdiction that are stricter than the standards adopted by the department. In any case where a municipality or state agency adopts such stricter standards, any warning signs required by this section shall display the results of such stricter standards relative to the standards of the department.

(j) The testing, monitoring and analysis of bathing waters that are under the control of any state agency shall be conducted by that state agency. All such state agencies shall meet the requirements set forth by this section and the regulations promulgated by the department.

(k) The department may, subject to appropriation, award competitive grants to local boards of health in the form of a 50 per cent reimbursement for the testing, monitoring and analysis of bathing waters and to otherwise carry out the provisions of this section and the regulations promulgated thereunder. The department shall enter into a contractual agreement with a sole provider of testing services to be utilized by any state agency, and which may be utilized by any local board of health, to comply with the provisions of this section.

The department shall also ensure that the provisions of this section and the regulations promulgated thereunder are implemented in a cost effective manner by encouraging, where possible, regional approaches or other cost effective means of carrying out the purposes of this section.

(l) The department shall enforce the provisions of this section in accordance with the penalty and enforcement provisions of section 127A.

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