A small bayfront park in southwestern Suffolk County has ranked as having the least safe water quality for swimming in New York State, according to a national report released on Tuesday.
The Chicago-based nonprofit Environment America Research & Policy Center reported that Tanner Park in Copiague “tested as potentially unsafe for 48 days, more days than any other site in the state, and 68 percent of the days that sampling took place” at 276 of 422 sampled beach sites deemed potentially unsafe for at least one day in 2018. It also found that eight Suffolk County beaches were in the top 10 to have the most potentially unsafe swimming days last year.
“Swimming at the beach is a prime summertime joy for millions of Americans, but clearly we have more work to do to make sure water at all our beaches is safe,” said John Rumpler, the group’s clean water program director. “We must invest in water infrastructure that prevents pollution to ensure that America’s waterways are safe for swimming.”
The report released looked at fecal bacteria levels at beaches in 29 coastal and Great Lakes states as well as Puerto Rico. It found that nearly 60 percent of 4,523 beaches tested nationwide had water pollution levels that put swimmers at risk of getting sick on at least one occasion last year.
The report used standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Samples tested positive for fecal bacteria, which can make people ill, particularly with gastrointestinal ailments. Swimming in polluted water causes an estimated 57 million cases of illness annually, according to a 2018 study from the journal Environmental Health. Common sources of this pollution include stormwater runoff and sewage overflows. That’s why the Nassau and Suffolk county health departments often issue beach closures after strong rain storms.
The report includes several recommendations to prevent bacterial pollution and keep our beaches safe for swimming. Rain barrels, rooftop gardens, permeable pavement, and urban green space can all absorb stormwater runoff and prevent sewage overflows.
Besides Tanner Park, the other seven beaches in Suffolk that ranked as last safe in the state were Shirley Beach in Shirley, Venetian Shores in Lindenhurst, Valley Grove Beach in Northport, Sayville Marina Park, Benjamin’s Beach in Bay Shore, Corey Creek Beach in Blue Point, and East Islip Beach. One beach in neighboring Nassau County, Biltmore Beach in Massapequa, also made the top 10.