2016 Bacteria Monitoring Stats
71 sites, 669 water samples,
30 trained volunteers
2016 Bacteria Sampling Data
In 2016, sampling efforts were expanded significantly, adding 19 new sites in Little Neck Bay and Manhasset Bay. With the addition of 19 new sites on Long Island, Save the Sound sampled at 71 locations from Greenwich, CT, through Westchester County, and into Queens and Nassau Counties. With the aid of 30 trained volunteers, we collected 669 water samples, up from 394 in 2015. We tested each sample for the fecal indicator bacteria Enterococcus and scored each sample based on the New York and Connecticut safe swimming standards. Click on each site on the map above to see what we found. The colors reflect average bacteria levels at each site. The “% Pass” and “% Fail” show how many samples passed or failed the single sample criteria for safe swimming in New York and Connecticut.
Summary of Findings
Nearly half of the samples we collected failed to pass the bacteria threshold for safe swimming conditions. While this is not a good outcome, it is an improvement from last season when the failure rate was 60 percent.
Consistent with all prior seasons, the fecal bacteria levels increased at many sites during and following rain. Generally, bacteria levels were higher in the rivers and streams that feed the Sound than at locations along the Sound shoreline where ocean mixing helps to flush out and dilute the pollution.
Of the 71 sites samples, only 8 had acceptably low fecal bacteria levels every time we sampled. Six sites had unacceptably high fecal bacteria every time we sampled. The 8 worst sites are all in rivers that feed the Sound and thankfully none of these sites are designated for swimming. However, these rivers flow through neighborhoods where people can come into contact with the water and exposure to the polluted water could make them ill.
2016 Season Best & Worst
Six Sites with the Highest Fecal Contamination Levels
(No Passing Samples)
Eight Sites with the Lowest Fecal Contamination Levels
(No Failing Samples)
Long Island and Queens
Little Neck Bay, in Queens, had almost twice the failure rate (60% of samples failed) of Manhasset Bay, in Nassau County (33% of the samples failed).
Health Department data confirms bacteria contamination problems at the Douglaston Manor Beach, the only official swimming beach in Little Neck Bay. This beach scored an ‘F’ in the SoundHealthExplorer.org tool based on the past 5 years of County beach monitoring data. Save the Sound is now working closely with this community to better understand the sources of the bacteria contamination and identify solutions to the problem.
The Udalls Mill Pond in Great Neck, NY, had the highest levels of fecal bacteria contamination we measured this year, beating the Hutchinson River site in Mount Vernon, (Outfall at Farrell and Beechwood) where raw sewage is flowing into the river from storm drains.
Signs of Improvement
Water quality monitoring and reporting is an effective way to raise awareness and spur action for cleaner waters. After four seasons of monitoring local waterways; informing the public, elected officials and regulators; we are starting to see some positive results. Three rivers in Westchester remain very polluted but working locally and statewide, we can bring about solutions.
Hutchinson River improvements following enforcement action
On the Hutchinson River, Save the Sound provided reports on astronomically high fecal bacteria levels at location in Mount Vernon to the US Environmental Enforcement Agency (EPA), NY Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and to the public. In response to these reports and data they collected to confirm the findings, this March EPA took legal action against Mount Vernon, mandating inspection and repair of the city’s failing sewage infrastructure. The bacteria contamination we measured in the Hutchinson this season, while better than 2014 or 2015, is still unacceptably high; however we look forward to seeing continued improvements.
Beaver Swamp Brook improvements following major repair
The Beaver Swamp Brook, which flows from Harrison into the Village of Mamaroneck and Mamaroneck Harbor, has been the subject of several Save the Sound letters and requests for action to the Village of Mamaroneck and the NY Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). When the County sewer line that runs under the brook finally collapsed this winter after years of deterioration, officials discovered a “softball-sized hole” in it. The sewer line was repaired and unsurprisingly, the brook is now beginning to show signs of recovery, though bacteria levels are still high.
Mamaroneck River signs of possible improvements upstream
We have long been concerned about unacceptably high levels of fecal bacteria in Mamaroneck River which receives runoff from multiple Westchester communities and is crossed by numerous buried sewer lines. Save the Sound has taken legal action to spur maintenance and investment in the aging sewage infrastructure in Westchester Sound Shore communities. In 2015, we filed claims under the Clean Water Act and related claims against Westchester County and the eleven Westchester municipalities whose sewer systems flow into Long Island Sound. The parties are working cooperatively to try to solve sewer pipe breaks and leaks on a regional basis in the most cost efficient manner. Our 2016 monitoring shows the bacteria levels dropping at some locations upstream in the Mamaroneck River. If the river can continue on this trend it will also be very good news for the health of Mamaroneck Harbor and the swimming conditions at the beaches there.
All analysis is based on the New York and Connecticut State Recreational Water Quality Criteria
We can all take steps to improve the water quality in our communities!
As these examples show, the state of repair of local sewage infrastructure has a direct impact on the quality of local water. Investing in the maintenance of our sewer lines also buys us cleaner water and more beach days!
Everyone can help reduce sewage pollution sources simply by conserving water, which will lessen the wear-and-tear on our water infrastructure and reduce sewage overflows by lowering the volume of water in the system. Homeowners should maintain their septic systems and repair the sewer lines that connect homes and businesses to municipal sewers. (If roots get into your sewer line, sewage is probably getting out.) Sump pumps should discharge water onto lawns, not directly into a storm drain or catch basins. Dog owners should put pet waste in the trash, never in a catch basin or on the street.
Save the Sound encourages citizens to attend public meetings that address sewers and stormwater management. Reach out to your civic leaders if you’re concerned about sewage contamination observed in waterways in your community. Citizens informing themselves on this issue, opening discussions with municipal leaders, and showing support for solutions can be the first steps to curtailing unhealthy contamination of our waterways.
Be a Part of the Solution
- Everyone can help reduce sewage pollution sources simply by conserving water, which will lessen the wear-and-tear on our water infrastructure and reduce sewage overflows by lowering the volume of water in the system.
- Homeowners need to repair the sewer lines that connect homes and businesses to municipal sewers, or maintain their septic systems.
- Dog owners should put pet waste in the trash, never in a catch basin or on the street.
- If you see sewage overflowing in your community, please let us know by sending a photograph or video and the time and location of the overflow to firstname.lastname@example.org.