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To help explain the water quality issues that occured this season, the following are definitions of the water quality status notification terms: “Open”, “Advisory” and “Closed” according to the Suffolk County Department of Health Services (SCDHS):
A beach status of "Open" indicates that water quality has been found to be acceptable for
A beach status of "Advisory" indicates that an advisory has been issued in response to events
such as heavy rainfall that may pose a risk to public health. Under advisories, swimming and
other means of water contact are not recommended. Advisories are typically issued for a 24-hour period to allow for sufficient tidal exchange to dilute any contamination that may be present.
A beach status of "Closed" indicates the beach has been closed due to a water quality criteria
exceedance or the existence of a condition that may pose a risk to public health.
The West Beach was notified that it was “Closed” for bathing for June 15-16th and again on July 7th due to “water quality criteria exceedance” and this time, the status lasted for three days. At that time, we sent an email to Nancy B. Pierson (Senior Public Health Sanitarian at the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, Division of Environmental Quality, Office of Ecology) asking for a suggested course of action. She responded on July 10th with the following:
“The Sound Beach, Rocky Point area is often put under a 24 hour rain related advisories when it rains >1” in a 24 hour period. This is due to previous sampling studies confirming that stormwater outfall pipes, that discharge onto area beaches, carry & spread bacteria contamination. The area beaches are typically under the rain related advisory for 24 hours after the cessation of rain. If, when sampling, the SCDHS finds bacteria persisting beyond the 24 hour period or when 2 consecutive high results come back in a row (such as in this case), the beach is closed and resampled each day until a clean sample comes back. At that time the beach will be notified it may reopen.
Unfortunately, I am unsure who owns and maintains the stormwater outfall pipes in your area but I presume it’s the Town of Brookhaven. I am familiar with a remediation project the Town of Brookhaven did in the Rocky Point area a few years back at several outfalls that discharged on to the beach. But I’m not sure if any projects were completed in your neighborhood as well. I would suggest reaching out to Veronica King, Stormwater Manager, at the Town of Brookhaven (firstname.lastname@example.org or 631-451-6002).”
Based on the above suggestion, Steve Geiger, the Head of SBPOA Property and Maintenance, sent an email to Veronica King requesting that the stormwater management system that was installed by the Town of Brookhaven at the top of the bluff at the West Beach, be serviced. The response indicated that an inspection would be done, but that there was only one truck in the Town of Brookhaven that serviced all of the stormwater systems and we would have to wait our turn.
The West Beach was notified that it was again “Closed” for bathing for July 11th due to “water quality criteria exceedance” and that status lasted for two days. At that time, we again contacted Nancy B. Pierson, to discuss how it was possible that these last two closures in July could be related to stormwater runoff when there had been absolutely no rain for almost two weeks. She did not have an answer but additionally explained that the SCDHS had changed their methods of testing marine environments, this year.
At the end of July, the Town of Brookhaven stormwater vacuum truck was observed to be in the area and was directed to the top of the bluff at the end of Riverhead Rd. Town workers extracted 3 truckloads of material from the system.
The West Beach was again notified that it was “Closed” for bathing for due to “water quality criteria exceedance” August 1-2nd and then August 6-7th. These dates may have coincided with rain events. To see the water quality test dates and data, you can look on the SCDHS website.
For the latest information on affected beaches, please call the beach hotline at 631-852-5822 or visit our interactive map online at http://www.suffolkcountyny.gov/Departments/HealthServices/EnvironmentalQuality/Ecology/BeachMonitoringProgram.aspx
We have been notified about “Advisory” status, lasting for 24 hrs., on 4 separate occasions, for both the West Beach and the East Beach after rain events. We sent an email to Nancy B. Pierson explaining the following:
“We just received the rain advisory for the East Beach. We were just wondering, is it based on an actual sample that is tested, or is it based on the assumption that there is an outflow pipe for rainwater run-off at that site? We ask this because you may not be aware that the Town of Brookhaven eliminated the out flow pipe when they reconstructed the bluff last year. The rain water run-off now goes to a sump that was constructed to the east of the beach access stairs. So no rain water should be flowing into the Sound at our East stairs.”
We have not received a response to this question at this time.
It appears that all of these factors, the complexity of the water quality issues and involvement of different government agencies that are not looking at the problem as a whole, are making it very difficult to reach any conclusions or guess at a solution. What we do know is that SCDHS provides the notifications and the testing as a “courtesy” and since we are a private beach, we are not obligated to comply. We pass on the notifications to our members and of course, it is up to each SBPOA member to decide how the notifications affect their decision to go in the water or not.