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CCE IN THE NEWS

Source: The Day

Survey finds water quality closed fewer beaches in 2009

BY JUDY BENSON

Posted: July 29, 2010
Originally Published: July 29, 2010

Connecticut's beaches had fewer closings and advisories due to water quality problems during 2009 than the previous year, according to an annual survey released Wednesday.

There were a total of 108 days of closings and advisories at the state's 66 public coastal beaches in 2009, compared to 135 in 2008, according to the annual report from the National Resources Defense Council. The Connecticut Fund for the Environment/Save the Sound, Connecticut Audubon, Environment Connecticut, the Citizens Campaign for the Environment and state and federal lawmakers gathered at Parker Memorial Park in Branford to release the report.

"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 CFE/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."

The great majority, 81 percent, of beach closures and posted advisories reported in 2009 were due to stormwater contamination, the report showed. In a news release, CFE/Save the Sound said this shows the need for investment in sewer infrastructure upgrades and stormwater management techniques like green infrastructure and landscaping.

"For the past two years Connecticut has stood still in the top 25 percent of states as far as water quality is concerned. That's not good enough," said state Sen. Ed Meyer, D-Guilford, co-chairman of the legislature's Environment Committee.

Polluted stormwater runoff is also a contributing factor in the Sound's "dead zone," an area in the western Sound where oxygen deprivation is stressing marine plants and animals.

Nationally, the number of beach closings and advisories in 2009 was more than 18,000 for the fifth consecutive year, the report said. Most of the closings and advisories were due to high bacteria levels from poorly treated sewage and contaminated stormwater. The report said that the situation could improve thanks to an agreement between the Environmental Protection Agency and the NRDC. In a legal settlement, the EPA agreed to update and improve its 20-year-old beach-water quality standards by 2012.

Connecticut had an average of 5 percent of water samples not meeting clean water standards in 2009.

Local beaches highlighted in the report include:

  • Samples from Kiddie Beach on the Niantic River in Waterford had bacteria levels in excess of standards more than 50 percent of the time in 2009, the highest in the state.
  • Samples from Eastern Point Beach in Groton failed to meet standards 16 percent of the time in 2009.
  • Samples from Greens Harbor Beach in New London failed to meet standards 13 percent of the time in 2009.
  • Beaches that met clean water standards 100 percent of the time in 2009 include: Esker Point Beach in Groton; McCook Point Beach in Niantic; Noank Dock beach; Pleasure Beach in Waterford; and Soundview and White Sands beaches in Old Lyme.

Ocean Beach Park in New London and Misquamicut State Beach in Westerly were cited in the report's rating of 200 popular beaches nationwide. Ocean Beach received two out of five stars, one for good water quality in 2009 and the second for good water quality the last three years. Misquamicut received a three-star rating, the first two the same as Ocean Beach and the third for posting its closings and advisories online.

Ocean Beach Park failed to meet water quality standards 4.7 percent of the time in 2009, while Misquamicut had no failures. Water is tested once a week at Ocean Beach Park and twice a month at the Rhode Island beach. The report said neither beach always reports its advisories promptly.