FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. — As oppressive heat and humidity blankets Fairfield County this weekend, residents may want to hit the beach to find relief.
This might be a good time check the newest water quality grades for public beaches along Long Island Sound in Connecticut issued by the environmental group Save The Sound in its newest study at SoundHealthExplorer.org.
There's good news: Dry weather in 2014 and 2015 helped improve water quality at beaches along the Sound, according to the report, which examined 29 beaches in Fairfield County as well as many more in New York State.
The top grade of A+ went to Bridgeport's Pleasure Beach.
In Fairfield County, seven beaches received a grade of A. They are from west to east:
- Great Captain's Island and and Greenwich Point in Greenwich;
- Cummins, Quigley and East Cove Beach in Stamford;
- Bell Island Beach in Rowayton; and
- Long Beach (proper) in Stratford.
Nineteen beaches received a grade of B. They are from west to east:
- Island Beach in Greenwich,
- West Beach in Stamford,
- Weed Beach in Darien;
- Rowayton Beach in Rowayton;
- Hickory Bluff Beach, Marvin Beach, Shady Beach and Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk;
- Compo Beach, Sherwood Island and Burying Hill Beach in Westport;
- Southport, Sasco, South Pine Creek, Penfield and Jennings beaches in Fairfield;
- Seaside Beach in Bridgeport and
- Long Beach (Marnick's) and Short Beach in Stratford.
Byram Beach in Greenwich received a C+ while Pear Tree Point Beach earned a C.
“We want clean beaches that are healthy for all to enjoy,” said Curt Johnson, executive director of Save the Sound program. “Our goal is to engage the public in improving their beaches by putting long-term bacterial data trends at their fingertips. Now everyone around the Sound can understand their local water quality conditions and work to keep their favorite beaches clean and open for swimming.”
A total of 165 beaches on the Sound, or 83 percent, met or surpassed national averages for clean water from 2011 to 2015. That's up from 159 beaches, or 80 percent in 2010 to 2014.
However, some beaches along the Sound still suffer from periodic unsafe bacteria pollution. A total of 35 Sound beaches, or 17 percent, had water quality below the national average. Two beaches received an F (down from three in 2010 to 2014), five received a D (including Green Harbor Beach in New London County) (down from seven), and the remaining 28 got C grades (down from 31).
The Sound Health Explorer grades beaches on an “A” to “F” scale. Each grade is based on how often over the last five years a beach has failed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency bacterial pollution standards for safe swimming. That standard is 104 units of Enterococcus/100 ml sampled.
The website maps out different potential sources of water pollution and tracks rainfall. Data consistently reveals that wet weather continues to drive pollutants into the Sound. By clicking on a beach on the map, the user can see whether that beach sees from bacterial contamination in wet weather and/or in dry weather and how often. Wet weather failures are suggestive of polluted stormwater problems. Dry weather failures typically indicate hyper-localized and ongoing problems, such as cracked and leaking sewer pipes, home sewer lines illegally connected to stormwater systems, or failing septic systems.
"New York’s and Connecticut’s citizens shouldn’t have to skip a day at the beach to stay healthy,” said Tracy Brown, director of Western Sound Programs. “This tool can help decision-makers determine which communities are in most need of funding and can support increased investment in clean water.”
To see a complete, picture of beach health along the entire Long Island Sound, visit SoundHealthExplorer.org.
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