With the public's help, the Beach Inspection Program works to ensure safe swimming for all at New Hampshire public swimming beaches. Always follow safe swimming practices when visiting outdoor swimming areas to reduce the chances of getting sick or spreading illness to others. With the support of local and state agencies, DES personnel collect water from coastal and freshwater beaches to test for fecal bacteria to protect public health.
When bacteria counts at designated public beaches are higher than the state standards an advisory is issued to notify the public, approximately 24 hours after sampling. In addition to monitoring beach waters, the program supports studies to determine bacteria sources to beaches and provides information on beach safety to the public.
Public Beach Inspection Program personnel monitor about 170 freshwater public bathing beaches on a monthly basis, and 16 coastal beaches on a weekly or bi-weekly basis during the swim season. DES beach inspectors collect two to five bacteria samples from each beach depending upon the bathing area length. Beach inspectors can also direct lifeguards and the public to resources for more information on the beach program.
DES's Public Beach Inspection Program has monitored public beaches for over 20 years in response to the potential health threats associated with water-borne pathogens. These pathogens are responsible for water-borne diseases such as cholera, giardiasis, gastroenteritis, and cryptosporidiosis. DES also recognizes the threat of toxic cyanobacteria (formerly called blue-green algae) at public beaches. Cyanobacteria are capable of producing toxins known to target the liver and central nervous system and can cause irritations to the skin and mucous membranes. As the use of New Hampshire's inland and coastal waters grows, the continued goal of the program is to protect public health and inform the public of potential health risks at public beaches.