Environmental Group Releases State Beach Report

Natural Resources Defense Council rates swimming spots in the five boroughs, Long Island and Westchester County

The Natural Resources Defense Council released a report Wednesday that found water at a total 134 beaches in the five boroughs and its surrounding areas had bacteria levels that exceeded state health standards.

According to the national study, two Queens swimming holes—Douglas Manor Beach and Whitestone Beach—and six sites in Brooklyn had bacteria levels that were unsafe for swimming on various days last year when samples were taken.

The study also found levels that were unacceptable for swimming by New York State health standards at nine sites in the Bronx, 31 in Nassau County, 67 in Suffolk County, 17 in Westchester County and two in Staten Island.

"America's beaches have long suffered from pollution," said Jon Devine, a senior attorney for the defense council. "The difference is now we know what to do about it. By making our communities literally greener on land, we can make the water at the beach cleaner. In the years to come, there's no reason we can't reverse this dirty legacy."

The council, which is a non-profit environmental safeguard group that would formed in 1970, found that aging sewage treatment systems and contaminated storm water were the primary reasons for polluted beach water.

Pollutants included litter, floating debris and "toilet-generated waste," according to the defense council.

The study found that samples from Douglas Manor Beach, a private swimming spot, exceeded the state’s acceptable standard 25 percent of the time and was closed 54 times during the course of the study.

Whitestone Beach exceeded the limit 17 percent of the time and was closed 21 times.

A total 60 samples were taken at both beaches.

The borough’s other beaches in the Rockaways and at Breezy Point had no closings.

In Brooklyn, Gerritsen/Kiddie Beach’s water was higher than the acceptable standards for swimming 14 percent of the time. It was closed 14 days.

Both Coney Island’s Brighton 15th-16th and West 16th-27th beaches had pollution levels higher than the state standard nine percent of the time.

According to the study, Nassau County’s most polluted beaches were Crescent Beach, where samples were higher 27 percent of the time, and Seacliff Beach, which exceeded the limit 16 percent of the time.

But none of these beaches were listed in the study among the state’s most polluted. 

In a statement, the city's Health Department said, "Generally, private beaches are more susceptible to closure due to higher bacteria levels, especially during times when there is rainfall due to their location. City beaches are classified as closed or under advisory when confirmed samples show that bathing beach water quality exceeds the water quality standard for marine water beaches. During the 2010 beach season, four public beaches - Coney Island, Orchard Beach, Wolfe’s Pond and Manhattan Beach- had exceedances when the weekly scheduled samples were collected, but re-sample results showed no exceedances. Therefore, the beaches were not closed."


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