FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. — Sharp drops in water quality were recorded at several beaches in Bridgeport, Fairfield, and West Haven in 2016, according to the environmental group Save the Sound.
The group analyzed data and found that a number of beaches that tested very well in 2015 had significant increases in bacteria levels last year:
- Pleasure Beach in Bridgeport, which earned an A+ in 2015, got a D in 2016. Nearby Seaside Park Beach — a popular summer spot for area residents — went from a B+ to a D+.
- Fairfield’s Jennings Beach went from a B- to a D+.
- In West Haven, four beaches that earned an A+ in 2015 — Seabluff, Dawson, Rock Street, and Oak Street — each received a D- or F in 2016. Seaview, which had gotten a C in 2015, received an F last year.
The group looked at data from local and county health departments’ testing for fecal indicator bacteria to track trends. Grades are based on seasonal averages of tests that pass or fail the EPA safe swimming standards.
The failures at Jennings Beach appear to correlate with rain events, said Bill Lucey, the new Soundkeeper who led the investigation into last year's water quality.
Rain often leads to high bacteria counts as stormwater picks up pet waste from roads and yards, or overwhelms combined sewer systems resulting in discharges of raw sewage, he said.
The bacteria levels at the Bridgeport beaches may also stem from combined sewer overflows, but they are conducting further research, Lucey said.
The cause of the high bacterial counts at the West Haven beaches is not yet known.
“When we find pollution hotspots around the Sound, I’m committed to investigating and tracking down their causes,” Lucey said. “We’ll keep the public updated about what happened at these beaches, and what can be done to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Everyone around the Sound deserves to know their local beach is safe for swimming every day.”
Lucey will soon begin regular boat patrols of Long Island Sound’s bays and harbors. Save the Sound, which is a bi-state program of Connecticut Fund for the Environment, is putting the new Soundkeeper ahead of its upcoming merger with Soundkeeper Inc.
“Beach conditions can vary dramatically from day-to-day, and high bacteria counts on a few days last summer don’t necessarily mean bad conditions this year,” Lucey said. “The best way to get the latest testing results for your favorite beach is by contacting your local health department.”
Few beach closures have been reported in the 2017 summer season so far.
The Soundkeeper will be officially relaunched with a press conference and boat christening at noon Thursday, Aug. 3, at Brewers Stratford Marina. The public is invited to attend.
For information on beach closures, check the Save the Sound Facebook page .
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