“Keeping Our Beaches Open” at the Larchmont Mamaroneck Summit

The scores of beach closings at Westchester County’s Long Island Sound beaches over the summer caught the attention recently of a civic group called the Larchmont Mamaroneck Local Summit, which organized its monthly breakfast discussion for October around the topic.

Our New York program and communications director, Tom Andersen, was one of the speakers, along with Mamaroneck Village Manager Richard Slingerland; Thomas Lauro, the commissioner of the Westchester County Department of Environmental Facilities; and Patrick Ferracane, of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Here’s a video of the event. The speakers start at the 10:20 mark (after around-the-room introductions).

Larchmont Mamaroneck Summit video cap

By Save the Sound’s count, Westchester’s Sound shore beaches lost 134 beach days in the summer of 2013, after losing 112 in 2012. (We use the same method as the Natural Resources Defense Council, in its annual Testing the Waters report, to calculate beach days: multiply the number of days the beaches are closed by the number of beaches that are closed.)

The Westchester County Health Department closes 10 of the county’s 21 Sound shore beaches preemptively for a day each time it rains a half-inch or more within 24 hours; if it rains an inch or more, the beaches are closed for at least two days. The closings are necessary because stormwater is contaminated with bacteria from cracked and broken sewer pipes, and from animal waste and other pollutants that get washed off streets, sidewalks and parking lots.

Save the Sound initiated a Sound Swim Alert notice system in the summer of 2013, to let people know if Westchester’s beaches were open and to bring renewed attention to the problem. It will resume next summer, and you can sign up here.

We also conducted a pilot water quality testing program in Mamaroneck, to supplement work the village is doing, and we immediately had results that led to two significant sources of pathogens being fixed. You can read our report and see an interactive map of where we tested by clicking here.

We will be working over the coming months to build public and political support for the funding that municipalities need to make infrastructure improvements.

Pending sufficient funding, we plan to resume and expand the water quality testing and the Sound Swim Alerts (perhaps adding Nassau County to the alerts) next summer.

You can learn more about how to help stop stormwater pollution at reducerunoff.org.

Posted by Tom Andersen, New York program and communications director for Save the Sound

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