By Rich Monetti
If you live in the Sound Shore area and it rains at night, bacterial contamination usually closes the beaches the next day. Usually caused by storm water runoff and sewage leaks, the scenario played out 138 times across the various beaches last summer. Though the tax-paying citizenry and the businesses that thrive on the summer surf may have considered giving up in the face of a perceived lack of response from municipal governments, that is not the case, according to Tom Anderson of Save the Sound.
“People have accepted it as the norm. It’s just the way things are. The beaches are closed and we found that to be unacceptable,” Anderson, the nonprofit’s New York program and communications coordinator, said.
Shifting the complacent paradigm and elevating the profile of the problem was first up for the initiative. A good way to bring attention was by conducting water quality testing to figure out what’s going on in the sound Anderson said of the 25 locations that were sampled.
Save the Sound began by looking at the storm sewers, which connect to the pertinent waterways.
“Storm sewers should only have rain water in them, and if they have high levels of bacteria from sewage, then you know something is wrong. So we wanted to find out if that case was true, which it seems it is,” Anderson said.
According to a report just released, “seven sites along the waterways that flow into Mamaroneck Harbor, need further testing and investigation to determine the causes of elevated levels of E. coli and fecal coliform bacteria.”
Even more pressing, it turned out the A&P on Mamaroneck Avenue was one of two major contamination sources that reveal why area beaches are so frequently closed.
“There was a dumpster that was positioned over a storm drain, and it was leaking material from the meat department,” Anderson said.
The second hot spot with high levels of bacteria was found at the Mamaroneck Beach and Yacht Club, located on South Barry Avenue. As a result of the finding, Save the Sound reached the club through Mayor Norman Rosenblum, a Republican, and, within hours, the problem was being fixed at the source.
A&P was equally responsive and fixed their situation in a timely manner, according to Anderson.
Save the Sound wants to go back next summer and keep the concern in the forefront of public knowledge.
“Unless you keep progressing with the testing, it’s hard to pinpoint what the sources of the sewage might be,” Anderson said.
Looking forward, Save the Sound hopes to move further up the Mamaroneck and Sheldrake rivers to spec out as many sources of bacteria as possible.
Anderson hopes whatever entities responsible will follow the lead of A&P and the Beach & Yacht Club.
“If they didn’t,” he said, “it would be up to the municipality to enforce the law.”
As for the role of various municipalities in the ongoing problem, Anderson said, “they have to get serious about fixing their sewage systems so they don’t leak as much.”
But as sensible as the testing efforts sound, everything hinges on having the financial resources to continue into next summer and beyond. Aside from the tremendous support from the Westchester Community Foundation, a group that works to manage and deliver philanthropic funds, Save the Sound has gotten a number of individuals to join its ranks and make donations.
As such, Anderson is sure that the past proves the current farsightedness of the Sound Shore public is not an aberration.
“These towns have a long history of good citizenship when it comes to the environment,”