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Research & Monitoring

Status & Trends

LISS Ecosystem Targets and Supporting Indicators

Public Beach Closures

Reduce by 50% the number of beaches reporting at least one closure day or the total number of beach-day closures per monitored beach due to water quality impairments by 2035 compared to a five-year rolling average from 2014.

* Click labels in legend to hide data and adjust scale
Progress
Beach Closures/Advisories
YearCT Closures/
Advisories
NY Closures/
Advisories
Five-year Running
Average
2004183688
2005200464
2006224975
2007108886
2008135973967
20091081,1391,042
20101435441,047
20116361,2041,175
20122981,3671,309
20131519981,318
20141174461,181
20151501,2161,317
20161657581,133
201715416461,160
Percent to Goal
YearFive Year Running AveragePercent to Goal
2014 (baseline)00
20151,317-23
20161,1338
20171,1603

Status and Trends

In order to meet the 2035 target, the five-year rolling average of beach closure/advisory days must be reduced by an average of 30 days each year. As of 2017, the average reduction in beach closure/advisory days is 7 days each year. Therefore, we are behind schedule toward meeting this target.

Dry summer seasons in 2014 and 2015 resulted in a decrease in the number of beach closures in Long Island Sound. High incidents of closures in Connecticut in 2010 and 2011 were attributed to heavy rainfall and the impact of Tropical Storm Irene (in 2011).  Those years also were  exceptionally high years when one or more sampling stations at a beach reported a single sample Enterococcus result >104 CFU/100mL and at the same time the beach was not under a closure or advisory (source: Connecticut’s 2011 Annual Report for the US EPA Beach Grant).The high incidents of closures in New York in 2009 were attributed to heavy rainfall. Some health departments also indicate that beach closures have increased since the mid-2000s adoption of a new test for bacterial pathogens for marine waters (the Enterococcus standard). New York City started using this indicator to assess beaches in 2006.

Challenges

A closed beach may not be a direct result of water quality impairments. Many beach managers in Connecticut and New York close beaches preemptively when high rainfall generates stormwater runoff that may contain animal waste, untreated sewage discharge or other contaminants.

This target relies on information collected by EPA through the EPA Beacon 2 website.

How is This Target Measured?

Health departments sample coastal bathing waters to determine whether the water exceeds an acceptable level of 104 CFU (Colony Forming Units)/100mL for the indicator bacteria, Enterococcus.

Enterococcus may indicate the presence of pathogens that can lead to gastrointestinal illnesses (GI) among swimmers. Pathogens are disease-causing organisms, including bacteria and viruses.  More often, beach managers in Connecticut and New York close beaches preemptively when high rainfall generates stormwater runoff that may contain animal waste, untreated sewage discharge or other contaminants. As of 2012, there were 132 monitored beaches along Long Island Sound’s shoreline in New York and 72 monitored beaches in Connecticut. Yearly variations in closures are a product of rainfall patterns and incidents such as sewer-line ruptures.

Importance

Beaches are closed to protect swimmers from potential harm or illness caused by pathogens or other contamination. Closed beaches can also have an economic impact because they prevent people from being able to fully enjoy the Long Island Sound shoreline.

Contact

Cassie Bauer, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation cassandra.bauer@dec.ny.gov

Robert Burg, New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission,         rburg@longislandsoundstudy.net

Source of Data

EPA

Data Notes

  • The technical explanation on how the target was selected is found in Appendix B of the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan.
  • New York data (NY)  includes Long Island Sound beaches in Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester. New York City (NYC) beaches in Long Island Sound were added to this target in 2004. The target uses the EPA Beacon dataset from 2004. Prior to 2004, the information was compiled by LISS staff from county and state health departments.
  • Regarding the EPA approved marine recreational water quality indicator bacteria Enterococcus, it is important to note that this indicator was shown by EPA through epidemiological study to often associate in a predictable way with swimmer illness most likely caused by pathogens in human fecal contamination. Enterococcus is not considered by EPA to be a pathogen that causes swimmer illness, but may be present when illnesses occur. An indicator bacteria was chosen because directly assaying the concentration(s) of pathogens that may cause swimmer illness has been shown to be very difficult in a timely way. As it is, the analytic methods used to assay the concentration of Enterococcus in marine recreational water require a minimum 24 hours for culturing the bacteria. A water sample collected today will have analytic results reported on the following day (source: e-mail communication with Jon Dinneen, Connecticut Department of Public Health).
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