Pollution Is Closing More Nearby Beaches, Report Finds

August 1, 2009 at 6:35 pm Leave a comment

The number of New York and New Jersey beaches that were either closed, or the subject of warnings, because of water pollution has been surging, according to annual beach water quality report released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Nationally, the report found the number of beach closings and advisories was at the second-highest level in the 18 years that the report has been issued.

The report, “Testing the Waters: A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches,” tallied more than 1,400 closing and health advisory days along the Atlantic Ocean and Long Island Sound coastlines of New York and New Jersey in 2007. That represented a 33 percent increase from 2006, when the number of closings and advisories surged by 96 percent from the previous year. The report mentioned how American beaches “continue to suffer from serious water pollution that puts swimmers at risk.”

Beach pollution is often highest after heavy rainfalls, as combined sewer overflows carry pollution — including hazardous bacteria and toxic substances — into the ocean.

New York State beaches, including those along the Great Lakes, had 1,547 closing and advisory days in 2007, a 21 percent increase from 1,280 days in 2006. The ocean and bay beaches accounted for 1,313 of these closings and advisories. About half of New York State’s closing and warning days consisted of preemptive rain advisories issued after rainfall.

New Jersey beaches had 142 closing and advisory days in 2007, a 6 percent rise from 134 in 2006, and 79 in 2005. Preemptive closings because of rain accounted for 72 percent of the total.

About 27 billion gallons of sewage overflows enter waters around New York City each year, from about 460 overflow points across the five boroughs, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“The city’s attempts at reducing sewage overflow historically have focused on the construction of hugely expensive tanks and other engineering ‘fixes’ that alone won’t solve the problem,” said Larry Levine, a lawyer in the council’s New York office. “By incorporating ‘green’ solutions — like more street trees, green roofs, and porous pavement — we can capture stormwater where it falls, instead of letting it overwhelm our sewers and flush raw sewage directly into our recreational waters.”

The City Council this year passed a bill requiring the mayor’s office to develop a Sustainable Stormwater Management Plan by Dec. 1, focusing on such “green” solutions, and green infrastructure approaches. Last month, the State Legislature authorized a New York City property tax credit for the installation of green roofs.

By Sewell Chan
New York Times

Entry filed under: Dive In, Natural Waterfront. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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