Some Suffolk County beaches reopen

File photo

Some Suffolk County beaches reopen


SUFFOLK COUNTY—West Islip Beach, which was closed to bathing last week due to the finding of bacteria levels in excess of acceptable criteria, has reopened, according to the Suffolk County Department of Health Services. 

A number of other beaches (mostly connected to the bay) in Suffolk County have closed and reopened, and in some cases, closed again within the last few weeks. Lake Ronkonkoma opened one day last week, only to be closed again the following day. 

Amityville Village Beach in the Town of Babylon, Eagle Dock Community Beach in the Town of Huntington and Camp Baiting Hollow Beach (by the Long Island Sound) in the Town of Riverhead have also recently closed, with Benjamin’s Beach in Bay Shore and Tanner Park Beach in the Town of Babylon remaining closed. 

Grace Kelly McGovern, spokesperson for SCDHS, noted that in 2017, there was a slight increase in beach closures compared to previous years. That same year, SCDHS changed its protocol for beaches like those that have been closing.

“In years prior to 2017, we would close a beach after two consecutive samples showed levels of bacteria above acceptable criteria,” McGovern said. “In 2017, we started closing beaches after one sample indicated elevated levels of bacteria.”

Under Beach Act guidelines, the frequency with which beaches are monitored should depend on the relative risk associated with their use. Accordingly, a risk assessment has been conducted at all Suffolk County beaches and each facility classified into one of three levels (Tier 1-3), with Tier 1 (those that have been closing more frequently) being the highest risk level. 

Factors considered in the assessment include pollution threats, beach location, historical monitoring data, community input and beach use. 

As a result of this assessment, Tier 1 beaches are monitored more frequently, with at least one to two samples collected weekly, McGovern explained. At Tier 2 beaches, at least one weekly sample and at least five samples in a 30-day period are collected. Sampling Tier 1 and 2 beaches extends from approximately May 15 through Sept. 15. 

Tier 3 beaches, predominately located on the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean and Long Sound, are sampled less frequently, McGovern continued. Historical water quality monitoring has demonstrated that fecal bacteria contamination is not typically an issue at Level 3 beaches, despite generally high bather density, undoubtedly due to the greater degree of tidal circulation and flushing. 

For the latest information on affected beaches, call the Bathing Beach Hotline at 631-852-5822 or contact the Office of Ecology at 631-852-5760 during normal business hours.