Consider this before cooling off this summer — last year the number of beach closings and advisories reached the second-highest level in 21 years, according to The National Resources Defense Council’s annual report. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates bacteria contamination in accordance with The Clean Water Act, but this year’s report revealed that contaminated storm water runoff and poorly designed sewage treatment facilities continue to pollute our favorite seaside escapes.
How do local beaches measure up?
NEW YORK’S BEACHES
Nine percent of samples taken from New York’s coastal beaches exceeded the EPA’s contamination standards, with 63 percent of beach water contamination in New York coming from storm water runoff. An additional 9 percent of pollution was attributed to sewage leaks and overflows. About two-thirds of New York City’s sewage system is combined with storm pipes, so heavy rains may cause the system to overflow, spilling contaminants into waterways.
Best beach to bathe? All six Coney Island Beaches met national standards and none were closed for contamination in 2010.
The Robert Moses Beach in Suffolk County also avoided contamination-related advisories and/or closures, with only 2 percent of samples exceeding maximum levels. Long Beach, also in Suffolk County, as well as all of the Rockaway beaches in Queens County received near-perfect ratings.
Top offenders? Some 64 percent of the weekly samples taken from Niagara County’s Krull Park exceeded the maximum bacterial standards, with Wayne County’s Pultneyville Mariners Beach also breaking 50 percent. In Chautauqua County, dirty waters were found off Main Street Beach, with 44 percent of samples exceeding standards, Point Gratiot West Beach, with 37 percent exceeding standards and Wright Park East, with 42 percent exceeding standards, all .
NEW JERSEY’S BEACHES
The Garden State ranked only second in beach water quality, trailing New Hampshire. Only 2 percent of New Jersey’s beaches did not meet the national standards. Ninety-three percent of contamination was due to storm water runoff, however, an unusually dry summer contributed to the reduced water contamination levels in 2010.
Best beach to bathe? Atlantic County in south Jersey had the state’s cleanest beaches. Only Seaside Beach in Brigantine and New Jersey Avenue Beach in Somers Point had slightly high bacterial levels, resulting in two contamination related advisory and/or closure days. Cape May County beaches, also known as the “Jersey Shore,” trailed with five total advisory and/or closure days.
Top offenders? Collectively, Monmouth County beaches were closed nearly 100 days in 2010. New Jersey’s highest levels of beach water contamination were found at two beaches in Ocean County: 27 percent of samples at Beachwood Beach West exceeded the national limit; and at Windward Beach, 17 percent of samples did not meet national standards.
Despite having a fraction of the number of beaches of neighboring New York and New Jersey, Connecticut’s 66 beaches ranked 24th overall in beach water quality. Eleven percent of water samples from Connecticut’s coastlines did not meet national standards, a number nearly double that of recent years. Around 66 percent of beach water contamination came from storm water runoff, while another 7 percent was from sewage spills.
Best beach to bathe? Waters off the coasts of Pleasure, Soundview and White Sands Beach, all in New London County, had the cleanest water samples and zero beach advisory days and/or closures. Rounding off the list of perfect waters is Lighthouse Point Beach in New Haven County, which also had contaminant free waters.
Top Offenders? Kiddies Beach in New London County had Connecticut’s dirtiest waters, with 54 percent of samples showing high levels of bacteria. Due to consistently high contamination levels, swimming at Kiddies Beach has been prohibited, as of early 2011. Also in New London County, Green Harbor Beach showed high levels of beach water contamination.
To see the full report, visit http://www.nrdc.org/water/oceans/ttw/titinx.asp.
Philip Stephenson contributed reporting.