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Water: Beaches

New York 2009 Swimming Season Update

May 2010


Drawing of the state of New York with counties identified in green

Figure 1. New York coastal counties.

The BEACH Act of 2000 requires that coastal and Great Lakes states and territories report to EPA on beach monitoring and notification data for their coastal recreation waters. The BEACH Act defines coastal recreation waters as the Great Lakes and coastal waters (including coastal estuaries) that states, territories, and authorized tribes officially recognize or designate for swimming, bathing, surfing, or similar activities in the water.

This fact sheet summarizes beach monitoring and notification data submitted to EPA by the State of New York for the 2009 swimming season.

Each summer, New York monitors bacteriological indicator levels at bathing beaches along Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, Long Island Sound, and the Atlantic Ocean as part of EPA's BEACH Act grant program. Indicator bacteria are used to detect pollution sources, such as sewage or stormwater runoff that could affect water quality at a beach. The New York State Department of Health contracts with local health departments, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation to provide up-to-date information regarding beach water quality conditions to the public.

In 2009, 8,584 beach water samples were collected from the State's 346 monitored beaches and analyzed for E. coli (freshwater beaches) or Enterococcus (marine beaches). Sample analysis and local predictive models resulted in 970 instances of beach closures or advisory postings to protect the public from swimming in potentially contaminated water. Public notification occurs if a sample exceeds the threshold of 235 E. coli colonies per 100mL or 104 Enterococcus colonies per 100mL of water. New York's beach water quality is generally excellent; in 2009 the State's coastal beaches were open 95% of the time.

Table 1. Breakdown of monitored and unmonitored beaches by county for 2009.
County Total Beaches Monitored Not Monitored
Bronx 10 9 1
Cayuga 1 1 0
Chautauqua 9 9 0
Erie 10 10 0
Jefferson 3 2 1
Kings 11 11 0
Monroe 4 4 0
Nassau 65 65 0
Niagara 2 2 0
Oswego 7 7 0
Queens 11 11 0
Richmond 3 3 0
Suffolk 201 187 14
Wayne 3 3 0
Westchester 25 22 3
Totals 365 346 19*
*These beaches were not in operation in 2009.

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2009 Summary Results

How many notification actions were reported and how long were they?

Bar Graph of Beach notification actions by duration

Figure 2: Beach notification actions by duration.

When water quality standards are exceeded at a particular beach, New York's approach is to issue a beach advisory that warns people to avoid contact with the ocean water. A total of 156 monitored beaches had at least one advisory issued during the 2009 swimming season. About 87 percent of New York's 970 notification actions lasted two days or less. Figure 2 presents a full breakdown of notification action durations.

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What percentage of days were beaches under a notification action?

Pie Chart of Beach days with notification actions (1,943 or 5%) and without (34,387 or 95%)

Figure 3: Beach days with and without notification actions.

For New York's 2009 swimming season, actions were reported about 5 percent of the time (Figure 3).

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How do 2009 results compare to previous years?

Table 2 compares 2009 notification action data with monitored beach data from previous years.

Table 2. Beach notification actions, 2007–2009.
Year 2007 2008 2009
Number of monitored beaches 353 353 346
Number of beaches affected by notification actions 141 138 156
Percentage of beaches affected by notification actions 40% 39% 45%
Percentage of beach days affected by notification actions 4% 4% 5%

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What pollution sources possibly affect investigated monitored beaches?

Figure 4 displays the percentage of New York's monitored beaches possibly affected by various pollution sources. In 2008, 54 percent of the beaches included storm-related runoff as a known potential source. No pollution sources were identified at 42 percent of the beaches.

Bar Graph of Percent of Beaches

Figure 4: Percent of monitored beaches potentially affected by pollution sources (346 beaches).

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For More Information

New York's 2008 Beach Season Data | General information about beaches

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