How clean is the water we swim in?

Check out the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches to look at last year’s stats for your beach.

According to the NRDC, New York ranked 20th in Beach Water Quality out of thirty states in 2013. New York reported 362 beaches, of which 359 were monitored.

Last year, thirteen percent of samples collected at local beaches throughout New York State exceeded the “Beach Action Value” established by the federal government. That value is the line at which bacteria levels are deemed potentially hazardous to human health.

The Beach Action Value draws the line at “60 enterococcus bacteria [normally found in feces] colony forming units (cfu) per 100 ml marine or estuarine water in a single sample” and “190 E. coli bacteria cfu/100 ml for freshwater in a single sample.” Estuarine water by definition is a mixture of salt and fresh water.

The NRDC reports that the New York beaches with the highest percent exceedance rates of the BAV in 2013 were Wright Park East Beach in Chautauqua County (50%), Copiague Harbor Beach in Suffolk County (50%), Douglaston Homeowners Association Beach in Queens County (46%), Ontario Beach in Monroe County (40%), and Wright Park West Beach in Chautauqua County (38%).

 Tracking water quality data for every beach in New York State

“New York is the only state with both marine and Great Lakes coastlines,” says the NRDC. “There are 127 miles of Atlantic Ocean coastline, 231 miles of shorefront on Long Island Sound, 548 miles of Long Island bayfront, and 83 miles of shorefront on islands off the Long Island coast.

In addition to these marine coastlines, there are more than 200 miles of freshwater shoreline on Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.

The Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act helps states and local governments develop monitoring programs to protect public health. Through these programs local officials test beach water for bacteria and issue closings or advisories when bacteria levels exceed a certain threshold.

The coastal beach monitoring program in New York is administered by the state’s Department of Health.

The EPA recently issued a new Beach Action Value, which is a more protective threshold than the national allowable bacteria levels used in previous years to trigger beach advisories…in assessing 2013 beach water quality NRDC has chosen to use the BAV in order to best protect beachgoers from water quality health risks.”

For Current Conditions

Residents of the five boroughs can check the city’s Department of Health website for beach closings and advisories in the New York City area.

Great Lakes beachgoers can learn about advisories and closings on the BeachCast website.