Connecticut Beaches Closed More than Ever in 2011

Today, we announced that in 2011, there were a whopping 538 beach closures and advisory days along Connecticut’s shoreline. This is a huge jump from 2010’s 143 beach closures and advisory days – a 276 percent increase. According to this year’s Testing the Waters Report by the Natural Resources Defense Council, a lot of these closures were due to Tropical Storm Irene, but the vast majority were because of heavy rainfall all summer.

Beach closures happen for many reasons, including elevated bacteria levels, stormwater, heavy rainfall, and wildlife contamination. These various pollutants, which put a damper on our enjoyment of Long Island Sound, are monitored weekly either by state (for the state parks) or local officials. Water samples are taken and tested for various contaminants. If they exceed a certain level, the beach is closed until another sample is taken to ensure that the water is safe for swimming.

The bulk of the days, 261 (49 percent), were preemptive due to heavy rainfall other than Tropical Storm Irene. These heavy rains delivered a toxic brew of raw sewage, chemicals and bacteria to Long Island Sound. Elevated bacteria levels accounted for the next highest amount, 139 days (26 percent), followed by 115 days (21 percent) due to other reasons predominantly associated with Tropical Storm Irene; and finally, 23 days (four percent) were due to swimmer’s itch, a skin rash caused by an allergic reaction to certain parasites that infect some birds and mammals.

The bulk of the closures occurred in New London and New Haven Counties (11 percent), followed by Fairfield County (10 percent) and Middlesex County (eight percent).

The individual beaches with the highest percentage of beach closures include:

Green Harbor Beach (New London)

Seabluff Beach (West Haven)

Town Beach (Clinton)

Short Beach (Stratford)

Branford Point Beach

Esker Point Beach (Groton)

Clark Avenue Beach (Branford)

White Sands Beach (Old Lyme)

There are things that can be done to help mitigate this problem. By investing in the Clean Water Fund and implementing green infrastructure techniques, we can work to curb stormwater runoff so that the water that flows from our sewers is  cleaner before it flows into the Sound.

Here is the statement we put out today regarding this year’s report:

“While Connecticut has taken massive strides to improve water quality recently, the tide has not yet turned. The number of beach closures and advisory days in Connecticut rose significantly for the second year in a row—from 143 days to 538—and our ranking tumbled even further this year: 26th (out of 30) in the nation for the number of bacteria tests exceeding national beach standards. The writing on the wall is clear; we cannot rely on the whims of weather cycles to ensure our beaches stay open, we must stay vigilant and be proactive.  If we want to enjoy our coastline, eat local seafood, and promote tourism along the shore, rain or shine, we must curb pollution at the sourceinvestment in the state’s Clean Water Fund and Green Infrastructure are two critical solutions.  Thankfully, the Governor and General Assembly committed significant resources over the last two years, but sustained and consistent funding in future years, particularly in next year’s budget, will decide whether the citizens of Connecticut will have the clean water they deserve.”    

Posted by Rebecca Kaplan, director of communications for CFE/Save the Sound

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