Thursday, July 13, 2006

Long Island's Beaches Are Unsafe for Swimming

If you live on Long Island, don’t bother going to the beach for a swim over the next couple of days. Almost all the beaches are closed, which is what health departments are forced to do after a big rain storm, because our streets are so dirty and our sewers are so riddled with holes that stormwater is too dangerous to swim in.

In some summers, heavy rains have washed enough organic material into Long Island Sound that is blamed for unusually severe hypoxia (that is, low concentrations of dissolved oxygen) in late July and August, so we might have that to look forward to as well.

Meanwhile, Bryan Brown (who along with Texan Sam Wells is among Sphere’s most loyal readers and commenters) asked some pertinent questions regarding a post I wrote after beaches were shut down in Westport the other day because a treatment plant’s ultra violet disinfection system malfunction:

Our local STP in Glen Cove recently installed a UV system to replace the chlorine-based system, but your post begs the question: what are the contingencies in the event of a UV malfunction? The back-up generator they have addresses power failures, but what about a "computer software glitch"? In the interest of removing any potential hazards from the storage of sodium hypochlorite, perhaps they've cut it too close. It's something we'll be looking into.

The timing of the tests results for the beaches mentioned in the article is curious. If it takes 24h to get a result, how did they test Sherwood Island so quickly? The timing for Compo Beach sounds about right.

Finally, your comment re: the shellfish beds brings up another issue. USEPA now requires testing for enterococci at marine beaches, instead of fecal coliforms. According to USEPA, their studies show it's a better indicator for disease-causing organisms, at least in marine environments. What I can't understand is that water quality monitoring for shellfish beds is still based on fecal coliform, as is the monitoring done by STPs discharging to marine environments (as I understand it). Shellfishing is the highest form of use a waterbody can have (higher than recreational uses), yet it doesn't merit the so-called gold standard for bacteria monitoring. It seems like an inconsistent approach to WQ monitoring.

Naturally I couldn't answer these but I thought they were good enough to merit a response from someone in the Connecticut government. John Wiltse, of Governor Rell’s PR staff, sent them on to the Health Department and the DEP. If they respond (and I have to hope they’re better than Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s staff is in that regard), I’ll let you know.


Blogger Sam said...

Well I'll be doggone, I checked the Texas beach program and they same enterococcus, just as you say. So they don't test for fecal coli and down here Vulnificus is a big problem but they don't do that either. [Vulnificus can cause horrible lesions, neurologic damage, or even death.] Go figure.

Now I now that wastewater is a big deal, but some time ago I read a story about the Chesapeake and all the doggie doo. I'll see if I can remember where I found the study but its finding was that dog feces was one of the top three or five contributors to water degragation in the Chesapeake bay system (point and non-point water pollution). It was quite well done.

Thanks for writing the article, Tom.

11:38 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

eXTReMe Tracker