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The nonprofit organization Save the Sound released results of its Long Island Sound Beach Report on Aug. 2. The report highlighted the top 20 beaches on Long Island Sound based on water quality, and, for the first time, presented comprehensive grades for 204 swimming beaches in New York and Connecticut. Madison beaches took the #1 and #9 spots.
The report detailed safe swimming conditions at numerous beaches, but noted that continued rain-triggered water pollution is a harbinger of future challenges. Save the Sound also unveiled an upgraded website dedicated to providing public access to over a decade of water quality data for Sound beaches at www.SoundHealthExplorer.org.
Save the Sound’s LIS Beach Report offered good news for swimmers and beachgoers, highlighting dozens of beaches on both sides of the Sound that consistently earn top grades for water quality. On average, Long Island Sound beaches met safe-swimming criteria 93.3 percent of the time in 2016-’18. In Connecticut, the Surf Club Beach in Madison was ranked #1, followed by beaches in New Haven, New London, and Fairfield Counties.
Connecticut Beaches: 2016 to 2018
Surf Club Beach Madison
Quigley Beach Stamford
Eastern Point Beach Groton
Esker Point Beach Groton
East (Cove Island) Beach Stamford
McCook Point Beach East Lyme
White Sands Beach Old Lyme
Pleasure Beach Waterford
East Wharf Beach Madison
Pear Tree Point Beach Darien
However, the report, which analyzed trends from the most recent three years tested (2016-’18), also revealed some troubling findings. For the three summers covered in the report, the overall failure rate of beach samples more than doubled in wet weather—jumping from 5.4 percent in dry weather to 11.1 percent following wet weather. As a result of climate change, the Sound region is expected to experience steadily increasing rainfall over the coming decades, which means more needs to be done to improve coastal stormwater management and sewage infrastructure.
High rainfall impacts water quality at beaches in a number of ways, including by diverting untreated sewage directly into the Sound in locations that use combined stormwater and sewer pipes, or those locations with decaying and damaged pipes. With increased rainfall levels leading to added beach closure days, even in the sunny days following heavy rain, Save the Sound is urging communities to invest in improved sewer treatment and handling capacity, as well as to increase testing at impacted beaches. Save the Sound has successfully lobbied for state funding in both Connecticut and New York to assist municipalities in upgrading their wastewater and stormwater infrastructure.
Tracy Brown, director of Save the Sound, commented, “Long Island Sound beaches are an integral part of the lives of millions of beachgoers each year. We’re pleased to see so many beaches testing water quality regularly and offering public access for swimmers and beachgoers to enjoy the Sound safely. At the same time, we know that beaches practically next door to one another can have vastly different water quality, especially if local stormwater and sewer lines are combined or are in poor condition. Our upgraded SoundHealthExplorer.org website is an extremely useful tool for regulators, local leaders, and residents to identify water quality trends at individual beaches.”
Residents, as well as local and regional officials, are urged to check www.soundhealthexplorer.org for data regarding specific beaches. Often, issues forcing beaches into frequent closures can be addressed when local water quality patterns are carefully assessed and associated pollution sources identified.
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