Daytime – Environmental watchdog assesses beaches, officials cry (water) birds
Environmental monitoring group Save the Sound released its 2021 beach report on Thursday, giving most of the area’s public beaches high scores for water quality – with the exception of Rocky Neck State Park in Niantic and Greens Harbor Beach in New London.
Six of the beaches the group identified as the top 10 beaches in the state were located in New London County.
The scan assessed weekly levels of fecal bacteria and evaluated precipitation data to show how wet or dry conditions influenced water quality on beaches.
Tracy Brown, regional director of water protection for Save the Sound, said one of the main takeaways from the report is the variability of conditions from beach to beach in the same general area.
“These sources of pollution are so local that you can have beaches with bad ratings just down the road from the beaches with A + ratings,” she said on the phone Thursday. “So it really shows the need for local action.”
An example of this phenomenon can be seen at Ocean Beach Park in New London, which obtained an A +, and at Greens Harbor Beach, which obtained a D.
Data showed Ocean Beach passed all of its 30 water quality tests last year, while Greens Harbor Beach failed 25% of 16 water quality tests there. been carried out.
The disparity between relatively close beaches was also evident at Rocky Neck State Park in Niantic, which received a C-, and at Sound View Beach in Old Lyme, which received an A-.
Brown said the Greens Harbor Beach and Rocky Neck situations were interesting as both performed poorly in both dry and wet conditions. This means that it’s not just rain that causes stormwater runoff that releases pollutants into local streams, rivers and possibly coastal waters.
She said the most likely factors in cases like these involve geese or sanitation systems.
She noted that Greens Harbor Beach experienced a “particularly big failure” the week of August 24 last year. Data on the organization’s website shows fecal bacteria levels that week of 2,000 colony-forming units per 100 milliliters, while 104 or more is the cutoff for beach closure. Historical data at the site shows numbers also high during parts of July and August intermittently since the mid-2000s.
When asked what could be done to alleviate water quality issues related to waterfowl and sanitation issues, she pointed to Orchard Beach in the Bronx, where she announced the report results with Save the Sound that morning.
“It’s an urban beach with tens of thousands of visitors on the hottest days of summer, very close to New York City, and they have ‘A’ water quality,” she said.
Attendants comb the beach for goose droppings in the morning and patrol to keep waterfowl out of the beach and all beach washrooms are in good condition, according to Brown.
Mayor Michael Passero said the city was “not sure” what caused the water quality problems at Greens Harbor Beach. He said he hoped the large-scale drainage and park improvement project would improve water quality over time.
The project, originally intended to correct historic pavement flooding and reconstruct the drainage system that discharges stormwater into Greens Harbor Beach, has been expanded to accommodate the flow of water in the park and the causeway from a 60 acre watershed.
Water has traditionally inundated Pequot Avenue, kept parts of the park wet and carried sediment and contamination into the harbor, resulting in beach swimming bans.
“However, we think there are other factors now, including the waterfowl and the marinas that surround this beach, that sort of enclose it,” Passero said.
The mayor said he was not aware of ways to keep geese out of the area. He also said he was not aware of the significantly elevated levels of fecal bacteria noted in data from August of last year.
“It’s on our radar,” he said of the overall water quality problem. “We’ve pretty much eliminated stormwater runoff as a source because we’ve contained it. It’s a question of determining what the other source of contamination is.”
Department of Energy and Environmental Protection environmental analyst Tracy Lizotte said Thursday she believed bird poo was responsible for much of the park’s water problems. ‘State Rocky Neck. She cited a large bird population in a large, environmentally significant wetland that Bride Brook feeds, describing it as “fairly fertile ground”.
“We actually have the east end of the beach sort of what we consider to be permanently closed due to the high levels of bacteria,” she said.
Lizotte said there was not much to do for wildlife in the protected wetlands. According to Lizotte, the area is part of the Bride Brook system which features one of the largest runs of herring in the Long Island Strait.
“You really can’t go in and destroy the wetlands that are wildlife habitat,” she said. “It is a very important functional wetland.
Regarding the septic tanks, she said that numerous health surveys, samples taken upstream of the Highway 156 bridge and a dye study carried out by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency to “see how the things were happening “gave no results indicating a problem.
Lizotte said the agency was “90% sure” that birds in wetlands are the main cause of water quality problems on the beach.
Brown encouraged municipalities or agencies with poorly rated beaches to contact Save the Sound to discuss ways to improve water quality and ensure beaches remain open to everyone.