Ecosystem Targets and Supporting Indicators
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In order to meet the 2035 target, the five-year rolling average of beach closure/advisory days must be reduced by an average of 96 days each year. As of 2018, there is an increase in beach closure/advisory days since the 2014 baseline. Therefore, we are behind schedule toward meeting this target.
Dry summer seasons in 2014, 2015, and 2022 resulted in a decrease in the number of beach closures in Long Island Sound (see Heavy Precipitation for more details). 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.
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.
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.
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. In a recent study conducted by Yale (Ramsden et al. 2023), preemptive beach closures are important for towns and municipalities to consider implementing to better protect public health.
Cayla Sullivan, Environmental Protection Agency, Region 2[email protected]
Robert Burg, New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission, [email protected]