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Hidden Bacteria in Mamaroneck's Calm Waters

A report released by the National Resources Defense Council found an increase in bacteria in Larchmont and Mamaroneck beaches between 2010-11.

 

Although Mamaroneck’s waters may look pristine, according to a report by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), that apparent reality may prove to be deceptive.

The 2012 “Testing the Waters Report” put out by the non-profit environmental action group looked at the percentage of water samples in 2011 that exceeded state standards, causing beaches to close. The number of beach closures and advisory days rose from 94 in 2010 to 140 in 2011.

According to the report, two beaches in Mamaroneck had the highest percentage of samples exceeding the 104 colonies/100 ml for a marine beach allowable by the state, in Westchester County: Shore Acres Club had a 32 percent rate and had a 17 percent rate.  Other neighboring beaches had similarly elevated rates of bacteria that exceeded the state limit, including the Davenport and Green Tree Clubs in New Rochelle, both with 17 percent averages. Please see below for the full list or go to the NRDC website here.

 

County

Beach

Tier

Assigned Monitoring Frequency

Total Samples

% of samples exceeding state standards

Closing or Advisory days

Westchester

American Yacht Club

2

once a week

17

6%

0

Westchester

Beach Point Club

1

once a week

19

5%

14

Westchester

Beckwithe Pointe

1

once a week

18

11%

2

Westchester

Coveleigh Beach Club

2

once a week

17

12%

13

Westchester

Davenport Club

2

once a week

18

17%

13

Westchester

Echo Bay Yacht Club

1

once a week

14

0%

13

Westchester

Glen Island Park

1

once a week

17

6%

2

Westchester

Greentree Club

1

once a week

18

17%

13

Westchester

Harbor Island Beach

1

once a week

52

17%

14

Westchester

Hudson Park

1

once a week

37

14%

13

Westchester

Isle of San Socecci

3

none

0

n/a

0

Westchester

Larchmont Manor Park

1

once a week

16

6%

0

Westchester

Larchmont Shore Club

1

once a week

17

6%

0

Westchester

Mamaroneck Beach and Cabana Club

1

once a week

21

14%

14

Westchester

Manunsing Island Club

2

once a week

16

6%

0

Westchester

Marinas Edge

3

none

0

n/a

0

Westchester

New Rochelle Rowing Club

3

once a week

16

6%

0

Westchester

Orienta Beach Club

1

once a week

20

5%

14

Westchester

Rye Playland Beach

1

once a week

17

6%

0

Westchester

Rye Town Park - Oakland Beach

1

once a week

16

0%

0

Westchester

Shenorock Shore Club

2

once a week

18

11%

0

Westchester

Shore Acres Club

1

once a week

19

32%

13

Westchester

Surf Club

1

once a week

18

11%

0

Westchester

VIP Club

2

once a week

19

11%

2

Westchester

Westchester Country Club Beach

1

once a week

17

6%

0

 

According to Mamaroneck Village Manager Richard Slingerland, one explanation for the seemingly large 48 percent increase in bacteria count from 2010-11 could be related to the lower than average rainfall the village experienced in 2010. Anecdotally, Slingerland said, in 2010 more people were watering their lawns than usual and the village received an influx of complaints regarding unusually high water bills.

Tropical Storm Irene, which dumped many inches of rain in Mamaroneck, occurred in 2011, potentially adding to the overall precipitation rate that year.

“Because of the low amount of rain there was less runoff out of parks,” he said, referring to bacteria laden overflow like dog and goose waste.

“The county does very regular tests to determine whether there is bacteria in the water,” said Slingerland. 

One method the village has for combating bad bacteria is with a Gunderboom, a filtration fabric boom (a floating barrier used to contain spills) that keeps out harmful bacteria in the water. The current Gunderboom has been in place since 2009.

The Westchester Department of Health regularly tests beaches along the Long Island Sound—between late May and a little after Labor Day—that studies have shown are impacted by heavy rainfall, said the Department’s Spokesperson Caren Halbfinger. These beaches include Harbor Island, , , Shore Acres Point Club, and the Davenport and Greentree Clubs in New Rochelle, among others.  Click here for the full list.

“Sampling has shown us that this is a prudent step for us to take,” she said, referring to the impacted beaches.

Further, the beaches are preemptively closed during periods of heavy rainfall exceeding ½ inch, with the number of closure days directly correlated with the amount of accumulated rainfall.  The Health Department continues to monitor the situation, with more frequent resampling of water if the amount of bacteria showing up is abnormally high.

The frequency of beach testing at New York beaches depends on a number of factors, said Leah Schmalz, the director of legislative and legal affairs for Save the Sound, a program of the Connecticut Fund for the Environment.  The organization circulated the NRDC report in a press release earlier in the week to draw attention to the growing issue of beach closures due to environmental contaminants.

“[It] is based on a number of factors:  high swimmer volume, excess rain storms, sewage spills etc…Additionally, some beaches that might only normally test once a week, will retest numerous times if the bacterial level from the initial test is too high,” she said.

“While Westchester has taken strides to improve water quality, the tide has not yet turned,” she said. “If we want to enjoy our coastline, eat local seafood, and promote tourism along the shore, rain or shine, we must curb pollution at the source— investment in sewage treatment upgrades and Green Infrastructure are two critical solutions.  While much progress has been made in the last decade, improvement on these two fronts will decide whether the citizens of Westchester will have the clean water they deserve."

 

Harold R. June 30, 2012 at 07:55 PM
They have estimated that a lot of the run-off down into the rivers is contributing to this, in their words this includes a lot of run-off from golf courses and other goose-frequented areas including Harbor Island Park and Columbus Park. I would have to say that dog waste in parks and along streets also plays into this, because the street-wash washes into the curbs, runs into catch-basins, and all of it washes out through the storm-drains into the rivers and such." Stefani, I would appreciate it if you would would ask the Manager who "They" are in the beginning of the quote above. I have never seem any kind of data to support that statement. I would be interested to know what it is. thanks
Doreen Roney June 30, 2012 at 10:10 PM
Thanks Stefani and Rich Slingerland for reporting back on this. The public should always be informed of successful village mitigation measures. Stefani, I don't know if you saw my other question back up there. Could you obtain the EPA report region (our watershed ) wide on the same day of sampling that the violation was issued to the village?
Stefani Kim June 30, 2012 at 10:36 PM
Yes, waiting for a response to your second question. Will post a response as soon as I hear back.
Stefani Kim June 30, 2012 at 10:37 PM
Harold, In response to your question, I believe "they" refers to the Department of Health.
Doreen Roney July 01, 2012 at 11:38 AM
Thanks Stefani.
Harold R. July 03, 2012 at 10:54 AM
Stefani, That's it? You "think" "they" refers to the Department of Health? But you don't know? Is that the end of your reporting? Maybe that true, I don't know but it seems like there are some logical questions to ask. This seemed like a significant part of the managers statement and was meant to give them impression that much of the problem with bacteria can't be dealt with, very convenient. He he says in his statement "in their words this includes a lot of run-off from golf courses and other goose-frequented areas including Harbor Island Park and Columbus Park". This implies to the reader that there is some report to justify his statement. Are those words that are written down somewhere? Or was this just in casual coversation he had with DOH? Perhaps you can follow up with some of the questions above. Please let me know.
Stefani Kim July 03, 2012 at 02:27 PM
The logical assumption based on the answer the village manager gave me is that it was based on his conversation with the Department of Health. If there was a specific report, he would have referenced it. Feel free to follow up with the Department of Health yourself if any of this is unclear.
BG7 July 03, 2012 at 02:52 PM
Harold - did THEY not teach you any manners? Why not get one of your other personal assistants on the case.
Harold R. July 05, 2012 at 01:51 AM
BG7, I actually thought it was the job of the press to be skeptical, ask questions and hold government officials to account for what they say. If the Village Manager is citing a study, he must knows what it is, Stefani should be able to ask him for the report or even the name of the report and post a link to it. Just like somebody posted a link to the epa violation letter. I don't know why that is so difficult. I have followed the water quality issues in my own town for years, and I know that officials like to blame problems on things they can't be expected to control like wildlife waste and the weather but most informed people understand the real problem comes from very curable problems such as inflow and infiltration from long ignored aging infrastructure, illegal hookups, and poor enforcement of the laws meant to clean up these problems. But if the manager says it the problem is from too much goose poop and too much rain, well I guess that must be the answer. No more need for questions.
Stefani Kim July 05, 2012 at 02:04 AM
Harold, The Village Manager was not citing a specific study, as I previously said, it was a conversation he had with the DOH. I have requested specific information relating to the EPA violation as well as water sample reports from 2012 and am waiting for a response. It's obviously not difficult to ask for or request the information but I have no control over how long it takes him to send it.
Chief Siwanoy July 05, 2012 at 01:50 PM
There have been several studies/reports, going back to the 1980's (Satterthwaite), which essentially confirm Harold's comment. The Village Draft LWRP in section III discusses the longstanding problem of poorly maintained sewage infrastructure and pathogen pollution in the Harbor, although the discussion there is perceived through rose tinted glasses.http://www.village.mamaroneck.ny.us/Pages/MamaroneckNY_WebDocs/COMPLETE%20WORKING%20DRAFT.pdf It is not surprising that village officials continue the longstanding tradition of ignoring the relationship between poorly maintained sewers and water pollution in their public discourse. But it is counterproductive and regrettable.
Stefani Kim July 05, 2012 at 09:48 PM
Hi Chief, Your link didn't work. I am working on FOILing the information from the Village and obtaining an updated status on the 2011 violation the Village was issued for high fecal coliform readings in the area of I-95 and Fenimore from the EPA. Best, Stefani
Doreen Roney July 09, 2012 at 02:36 AM
Stefani, FOIL laws control "how long it takes him to send it." Hopefully this won't involve an appeal.
Doreen Roney July 17, 2012 at 11:39 PM
Stefani, Wondered if you ever received information regarding: 1:58 pm on Friday, June 29, 2012 Thanks Stefani. When you follow up with the village manager maybe you can also find out an answer to a question I and others have posed to the BOT in the past- why are the fecal coliform counts highest at Fenimore Rd and I-95 then taper off downstream to the harbor. Evidence of this is on page 10 of the below EPA violation the village received over a year ago. http://village.mamaroneck.ny.us/Pages/MamaroneckNY_Stormwater/EPAADM~1.PDF
Stefani Kim July 17, 2012 at 11:49 PM
Hi Doreen, Although the village has declined to comment on this, I have been in touch with the EPA regarding the violation. According to them, the village is complying with the terms of the violation; I have foiled copies of all compliance documentation which they are in the process of gathering. I am also in touch with the village clerk to obtain documents related to the violation. Once I have everything, I will write a follow-up article. Best, Stefani
Doreen Roney July 18, 2012 at 02:38 AM
Thanks Stefani. The village is declining to comment? FOIL taking longer than 5 days? Hmmmmm.... What interests me is on Sept. 30,2010 WHAT WERE the fecal coliform (poop) counts are along both rivers- Sheldrake and Mamaroneck. What other areas were measured in sampling on that same day. Starting with our most immediate neighbors to all the way up the watershed on these 2 rivers- what was the water quality like elsewhere?
Stefani Kim July 18, 2012 at 02:47 AM
Yes, the documents I requested through the govt. are numerous I am told, so will take a few days to receive. They have been responsive though to my requests. I'm unsure what prompted the violation notice, however, and will look into that for you as well as finding out what water samples were taken at that time.
Doreen Roney July 18, 2012 at 02:54 AM
what probably prompted the violation notice was that these findings in village waters might be in excess of EPA water quality standards. This is what our LWRP is supposed to protect by the way.
Doreen Roney July 27, 2012 at 04:59 PM
Hi Stefani, Have you heard back from the EPA on the watershed sampling information yet?
Stefani Kim July 31, 2012 at 12:03 AM
Hi Doreen, I should have the documents within the next week. Will be writing a follow-up article. Best, Stefani
Harold R. August 04, 2012 at 01:29 AM
Stefani, Did you ever received the records you requested?
Stefani Kim August 04, 2012 at 04:13 AM
Yes I just received them. Will be updating shortly once I've had a chance to read through them all.
Harold R. August 07, 2012 at 07:09 PM
Brilliant! Look forward to the article, Can you link to the reports.
Harold R. August 09, 2012 at 03:56 PM
There is a article today in the Sound and Town paper about the beach closures which also has a unattributed reference to geese being the problem and not our collapsing, outdated sewer systems. Here is the reference: The state and county health de- partments have been coordinating beach closures after rainfalls for years. The concern is that goose or dog waste may be washed into the storm drains, which increases bacte- ria in the rivers that ultimately drain into the Long Island Sound. Again, I don't know if this is true or not but it keeps being said without it ever being attributed to any study, department or person with knowledge. I am looking forward to Stefani's article shedding some light on this either urban legend or huge unsolvable problem.
Doreen Roney August 10, 2012 at 04:39 AM
I agree Harold, things are said but the fact checking is sketchy. Show me the study that verifies closures specifically due to goose and dog poop and I'll believe it. Why are other beaches around this part of the sound and Long Island closed after rainfall too? Overpopulation of geese and dogs everywhere, overtaxed leaking old sewer lines, and what else is in the water? I too am anxiously awaiting Stefani's article and information received from EPA.
Stefani Kim August 10, 2012 at 04:45 AM
I am still attempting to get a few questions answered by the EPA spokesperson who has been out of the office. From the documents I've looked at, there is certainly speculation as to what is causing the high fecal coliform readings (sewage and/or animal feces runoff from parks), in the locations mentioned above, however, they have not found the exact source yet. As part of their EPA citation, the Village has hired an engineering firm to study this in more detail.
Harold R. August 10, 2012 at 01:25 PM
"As part of their EPA citation, the Village has hired an engineering firm to study this in more detail." Stefani, Were you able to receive the contract that was given out for this work? It might explain a lot. It would be logical that there would be speculation about the causes but it should be based on actual investigations and data and not on wishful thinking about what officials would like the outcome to be. I look forward to your next article on this. Will you be able to post the things you received? That would be helpful to the folks interested in this.
Stefani Kim August 10, 2012 at 01:33 PM
Yes I can post the relevant items (there are 100s of pages). The proposal from the engineering firm was made available and I will post. I don't think work has yet begun yet.
Harold R. August 10, 2012 at 02:37 PM
Thanks Stefani, others may have different areas of this issue they are interested in, I am particularly keen on seeing any documents that relate to the goose poop issue.
Doreen Roney August 11, 2012 at 12:35 AM
I read the engineering firm's proposal a few days ago. This document reports DNA testing to determine if fecal coliform bacteria is human or animal. That's an expensive far stretch as far as I'm concerned. Is this coming from the village budget? If it's found to be animal what will be done about it? As I said before, start with this simple premise - go up our watershed determine if (non specific) fecal coliform is found and in what numbers. What's in the progress reports for the village's Inflow and Infiltration(leaky sewer pipes) abatement and the illegal connections programs? In the 1980's the village signed up (though our LWRP) as a partner with the NYSDOS Division of Coastal Resources to uphold the principles of the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972. This link is what we signed up for- http://coastalmanagement.noaa.gov/about/media/CZMA_10_11_06.pdf Grants and technical services are a part of this partnership, but from what I'm seeing the village has NOT availed itself of technical services or any grant monies since 2004. Our LWRP also gives us tremendous power to go outside of Mamaroneck's boundaries to participate in matters that may adversely impact our community's and LI sound's waters. I hope to see the day when village officials embrace the LWRP and stop treating it like the plague like as seen in recent LWRP update meeting. LWRP Consistency Education from NYSDOS is FREE, why hasn't the BOT mandated this of all village decision makers and themselves?

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