Is your beach still closed?
SUFFOLK COUNTY—The Suffolk County Department of Health Services announced last week that Bayport Beach, Corey Beach in Blue Point and Sayville Marina Park, along with Benjamin’s Beach in Bay Shore and Islip Beach, were closed to bathing due to the findings of bacteria at levels in excess of acceptable criteria. West Islip Beach has also remained closed to swimmers from earlier in the season.
The Town of Islip’s Ronkonkoma Beach, and beaches outside of our reader areas such as Amityville Village Beach and Lloyd Harbor Estate Beach, were closed to bathing either this past weekend or earlier in the week. Tanner Park Beach in Copiague has been closed to swimmers from earlier this season. A national report, released earlier this summer, found that Tanner Park Beach had the least safe water quality for swimming in New York State last year.
The report, which was conducted by a Chicago-based nonprofit group called Environment America Research and Policy Center, also found that eight Suffolk County beaches were in the top 10 to have the most potentially unsafe swimming days last year.
Benjamin’s Beach, Corey Beach and East Islip Beach, along with Shirley Beach, all made the list. Biltmore Beach in Nassau County and Woodland Beach State Park in Erie County were the only beaches in New York State to break the top 10.
Grace Kelly-McGovern, a spokesperson for the SCDHS, said the county monitors 190 bathing beaches, adding that 26 were closed in 2016; 24 were closed in 2017; 57 were closed in 2018; and 40 (to date) have been closed this year.
Kelly-McGovern also noted that, in 2018, rainfall events were more intense and longer lasting than the previous years. This, she said, resulted in more beaches being closed due to stormwater runoff.
In regards to the current beach water standards, the spokesperson said that in 2016 the Office of Ecology Bathing Beach Monitoring & Notification Program, at the request of the New York State Department of Health, conducted a pilot replicate study in which the SCDHS took two samples, “side by side,” to determine the consistency of the bacterial concentration in the bathing water of beaches being closed more frequently.
“An additional benefit to this study was a check on laboratory consistency,” Kelly-McGovern said, adding that lab results showed that 93 percent of the time the values were “consistent in which to make determinations on beach status.”
“Based on these findings and guidance from the NYSDOH, the Office of Ecology staff felt confident to start closing [certain beaches] after one high result, rather than two, starting in the summer of 2017,” she added.
The bathing standard for saltwater beaches, where enterococci is the “indicator organism,” remains 104 CFU/100 ml, according to officials. The bathing standard for freshwater beaches, where E. coli is the indicator organism, remains 235 CFU/100 ml, officials added.
Kelly-McGovern cites the following measures to help improve the nearby surface water quality:
• Upgrading antiquated sanitary systems
• Institute pet waste management programs
• Keep the wet and dry portions of bathing beaches free of aquatic vegetation
• Implement strategies to keep waterfowl (e.g. Canada geese) from bathing beaches
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