The Eastern Long Island Surfrider Chapter, Concerned Citizens of Montauk (CCOM) and Peconic Baykeeper released an annual report summarizing water quality data collected during 2017 through their Blue Water Task Force water quality monitoring program.
Approximately 50 sites in the Towns of East Hampton and Southampton were sampled in 2017 by trained volunteers and analyzed for the presence of enterococcus bacteria that indicates fecal pollution from human or animal waste, and the presence of other pathogens that can make people sick. The Eastern Long Island Blue Water Task Force program is designed to supplement seasonal monitoring conducted by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services (SCDHS) at lifeguarded beaches. All water quality data were compared to national water quality standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect public health in recreational waters and used by the County to issue beach closures and swim advisories.
An analysis of samples indicates that:
1. bacteria levels are higher in closed systems with minimal to no flushing,
2. bacteria levels are higher during the summer months; and,
3. bacteria levels are higher after rain events.
Fortunately, our ocean and bay beaches are usually safe for swimming, surfing and paddling for most of the year, but people should take care especially during peak season summer months and after rain to check water quality conditions before you get into the water. Stormwater runoff is the number one cause of beach closures in the United States. Rain flowing over roads and other hard surfaces carries pollutants like car oil, animal waste, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers into our waterways. On the East End most homes and businesses have individual septic systems or cesspools situated above high groundwater tables, where flooding conditions and extreme tidal events, can cause septic waste and nitrogen-rich wastewater, to enter our ground and surface waterways.
Blue Water Task Force (BWTF) data is being used by, and in conjunction with several municipal and nonprofit partner projects aimed at addressing some of the documented water quality issues at sample locations through advanced monitoring, source tracking and/or remediation projects. Some notable examples include: CCOM and the Village of East Hampton have both partnered with the U.S. Geological Survey to undertake microbial source tracking studies in Lake Montauk and Hook Pond, respectively; The Town of East Hampton is addressing water quality issues in Fresh Pond, Pussy’s Pond and Georgica Pond; and Surfrider, the Village of East Hampton and the Ladies Village Improvement Society installed a bioswale in the East Hampton Village Green to treat polluted road runoff.
All BWTF water quality data are publicly available online at go.surfrider.org/BWTF , via social media by the participating organizations, and in “Water Quality Alert” emails and press releases. All Eastern Long Island BWTF results are also available through Swim Guide, here.
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