Beaches marred by runoff carrying filth into water
The summer along Connecticut’s shoreline and lakes is being marred by beach closings due to bacteria and contaminants. Many swimming areas, coastal and inland, are well-groomed and well-managed. But on any given summer day, dozens of swimming spots are one good rainfall away from being shut.
The problem is that storm water runoff carries into the water feces from wild animals or pets and contaminants from highways, subdivisions, malls and farms.
Over the last decade, swimmers have lost at least 3,000 days to bacteria-related closings, based on a review by The Hartford Courant of 10 years of closure data for Long Island Sound beaches and state parks, and four years of records for lakes and ponds.
At the Connecticut shore’s 144 beaches that report testing data to the state, 65 closed for one or more days in 2007.
Some areas have problems occasionally and a few are very clean. For example, Hammonasset Beach State Park, the busiest state park in Connecticut, has not had a closure in at least a decade, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Beaches east of Fairfield County, including West Haven, have steadily improved.
But several persistent problems continue to plague some areas. Troubled areas include Hop Brook Lake Beach in Middlebury, Mixville Pond in Cheshire, Wharton Brook State Park in Wallingford and Byram Beach in Greenwich.
At Byram Beach, local authorities don’t have to test for bacteria following a heavy rain. Experience teaches that runoff from a heavy rain will contaminate Long Island Sound and officials pitch a “No Bathing or Fishing” sign in response to a heavy rain.
Barbara Beqiraj, 48, a lifelong Greenwich resident, says she swam in the Sound when she was a youngster.
“I don’t go in the water in Greenwich whatsoever. It’s disgusting,” she said.
Local authorities have been using many tactics to get to the source of contamination. At Mixville, they chase the geese away. At Wharton Brook, the state wants to install a filtering dam where a brook feeds into the pond.
And at Hop Brook Lake, the Army Corps of Engineers will try to increase flow when the water level drops later in the season.