Now that our beach season is over, a new report finds that Westchester beaches actually were closed far fewer times in 2014 than in 2013. Sadly, however, this doesn’t mean our pollution problems are also diminished. Tom Andersen of the nonprofit Save the Sound explains:
“In Westchester, 10 beaches were closed four days in 2014, for a total of 40 beach days lost to swimmers….In 2013, the number of beach days lost in Westchester was 138. So the beaches in Westchester were closed 71 percent less this summer compared to last. But it wasn’t a lasting improvement because the reason for the reduction was simply that it rained less, not that the pollution sources were eliminated.” (See our previous coverage.)
Starting in 1985, the County Health Department began banning swimming after rainstorms. Damaged sewers have been a problem in Westchester since at least that time. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently ordered communities to make repairs, but the work is complicated because the costs of repairs is high and the damage is widespread.
According to Save the Sound, five miles of sewers have been fixed at a cost of $3 million dollars in Mamaroneck. But that is only about 20 percent of the sewers in the village. Port Chester has been repairing sewers for two years but it will take another three years to complete their project.
Ten Long Island Sound beaches in Westchester are affected. They are: Harbor Island Park, Shore Acres Club, Beach Point Club, Orienta Club, Mamaroneck Beach & Yacht Club, Hudson Park/ Echo Bay, Davenport Club, Greentree Club, and Coveleigh Club.
“Save the Sound is working with volunteers who have been very effective in identifying local overflows and sewer leaks which can be fixed,” says Andersen. “One volunteer found that a sewer force main running through Westchester County’s Marshlands Conservancy nature preserve, in Rye, was leaking raw sewage through a popped manhole cover. The Westchester County Department of Environmental Facilities sealed the manhole and put into place a new system for county employees to report sewage leaks at all county-run facilities.”
Volunteers can join Save the Sound’s “Pollution Patrol,” which helps sample water quality at locations in the Mamaroneck Harbor watershed. Volunteers also scout potential illegal sewage discharges or other pollution problems and take photographs of sewage and water pollution to document problems.
For more information about volunteering for the Pollution Patrol, contact:
Tracy Brown, Director, Western Long Island Sound Office – email: email@example.com
Save the Sound 545 Tompkins Ave., 3rd Floor
Mamaroneck, NY 10543, Phone: 914-381-3140, Fax: 914-381-3150
Photos courtesy Save the Sound.
Joyce H. Newman is an Emmy Award-winning environmental journalist, educator, and gardener. She holds a Certificate in Horticulture from The New York Botanical Garden, and is a tour guide there.