Thursday, July 23, 2009

Beaches, Beach Closings and why Stamford does it

An article in the New Haven Advocate had me bemused. New Haven does not close the beaches when they have high bacteria levels.
They have not figured out that it is better to protect the public's health (and what then is a Health Deaprtment?), than sit on their hands and do nothing. They feel the data comes late and so is not valid.
I figured some of it out over 20 years ago. I did the testing and saw a pattern. Rain caused an elevation in bacteria at the bathing beaches.
We figured (We had a very proactive Health Director then and was very supportive) it was better to close a beach before we had proof positive that it would cause trouble (the bacteria tests) than to let people get sick.
In 1988, we had many reports of illness from people who ignored our warnings when we put up signs saying it might not be a good idea that they swim. The next year, we were more forceful about it and because many remembered the year before, they stayed out of the water.
We were also sure this was not sewage. We did know when there was a sewage problem and that was easy to close down areas affected, but this was not.
After a year of exhaustive testing, we found out it was the storm water.
We first thought it was all the raccoons that were living in the storm drains, but in 1990, rabies came and dropped the raccoon population 95%. The water was not as bad, but it would still close the beach for bathing.
The reality, we are an urban environment, water washing over the land and into the Sound did not get treated naturally, it was piped directly to the Sound. It was not "bad" water, but while it was coming out, we needed people to stay out of the water. It only took 24 hours till it was no longer in the water. We asked why and other people, part of the USGS, figured it would go into the sand and lie there waiting to be distrurbed, but unless there was an additional "load", it would not reach health concern levels.
We looked every year at the data, learned new things, saw new patterns, learned a lot. The marine police, the lifeguards, the recreation department all could observe things and help us out. It worked. People do not report being sick from swimming in the water at the beaches. They all lnow that you do not swim after a heavy rain. They even figured it would affect the fresh water lakes and ponds, People are smart, they need to be informed and they need to be protested. Since is my part.
Whats wrong with New Haven?
Post a Comment