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Source: New Haven Register

Mixed results on annual beach report card (documents)

BY MARK ZARETSKY
REGISTER STAFF

Posted: July 28, 2010
Originally Published: July 28, 2010

Connecticut saw a decrease in beach closings and advisories in 2009, but is 13th in the nation in beachwater quality and still has much work to do to ensure that Long Island Sound and the waters draining into it are clean and healthy, environmental advocates and public officials said today as they released the Connecticut results of an annual national environmental snapshot.

The “Testing The Waters” report, prepared by the Natural Resources Defense Council and released at Parker Memorial Park at Branford Point, states that Connecticut dropped to 108 beach closings and advisory days in 2009, from 135 closings and advisories in 2008.

That represents a 20 percent drop, although activists said that if a 2008 “wildlife anomaly” is taken into account, Connecticut beaches have been closed or carried posted advisories for 108 days for three years in a row. That figure shows the state “has been unable to make significant progress” in reducing the health threat facing the swimmers and boaters.

The national report and the Connecticut information can be viewed at www.nrdc.com.

The NRDC analyzed Connecticut Department of Public Health data for 65 beaches monitored by the state and municipalities. Connecticut dropped this year from 12th place to 13th in the nation for the percentage of tests that exceeded national standards, with five percent of those tests failing to meet standards set for bacteria, the report found.

The highest percentage of samples exceeding state standards in 2009 were Kiddie Beach in Waterford with 50 percent, Marvin Beach in Norwalk with 17 percent, Eastern Point Beach in Groton with 16 percent and Byram Beach with 15 percent.

The highest locally were the Westbrook Town Beach/West Beach with 13 percent, Jacobs Beach in Guilford with 10 percent and Stony Creek Beach in Branford, Silver Sands State Park in Milford and the Clinton Town Beach, all with 8 percent.

Overall, New Haven County beaches had the best record for not exceeding bacteria standards in 2009 with 3 percent, followed by Fairfield County beaches with 4 percent, New London County beaches with 8 percent and Middesex County beaches with 9 percent.

Nationally, the number of beach closings and advisories in 2009 hit their sixth-highest level in the 20-year history of the report, the NRDC said. The number of closing and advisory days at ocean, bay and Great Lakes beaches topped 18,000 for the fifth consecutive year, the report said.

More than four out of five Connecticut beach closures and posted advisories — 81 percent — were due to stormwater contamination, activists said.

The contamination includes everything from pesticides to fecal matter. Activists said it’s something that can be fixed through investment in sewer infrastructure upgrades and stormwater management techniques.

“This report makes clear that Connecticut still has a way to go before it can ensure clean water along our coast,” said Charles Rothenberger, staff attorney for Connecticut Fund for the Environment and Save the Sound.

“The state’s significant reinvestment in the Clean Water Fund and Congress’ move to include substantial improvements to the Long Island Sound Restoration Act are steps in the right direction. But we need to leverage this momentum if we are to enjoy long term benefits of cleaner water for swimmers, boaters and the marine trades,” Rothenberger said. “Until then, we will continue to be forced to rely on the goodwill of Mother Nature, not good policy, to dictate whether our beaches are open or closed.”

Other speakers included Environment CT Program Director Christopher Phelps; Sandy Breslin, director of governmental affairs for Audubon Connecticut; Brittany Ferenz, Connecticut program coordinator for the Citizens Campaign for the Environment; state Sen. Ed Meyer, D-Guilford; state reps. Lonnie Reed, D-Branford, and Patricia Widlitz, D-Guilford, First Selectman Anthony “Unk” DaRos and staff members for U.S. reps. Rosa DeLauro, D-3, Joe Courtney, D-2, and Jim Himes, D-4.

“When families head to the beach, they shouldn’t have to worry about swimming in polluted water that can make them sick,” said Environment Connecticut Program Director Christopher Phelps. “The best way to protect our beaches from pollution is to prevent it.”