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The beach bacteria problem on Long Island

June 28, 2012 7:05:54 PM PDT
Hot air and cool water made for perfect conditions for Bob Rand's daily one-mile swim off Hecksher State Park.

Perfect, until we told him the kind of news that could turn anyone's stomach.

Turns out, this very beach is closed more than any other on Long Island thanks to unsafe bacteria levels in the Great South Bay.

Last year, nearly one in three samples taken at the park's field six tested dangerously high.

This week a national organization ranked New York the sixth worst of 30 coastal states when it comes to water quality. It's a problem directly linked to development along the shore. Whenever it rains hard enough, septic runoff from countless homes cascades right into the water.

Because beaches like Heckscher are perched not on the ocean, but on the more sheltered Great South Bay, the tidal flow isn't strong enough to wash the pollutants away quickly enough. Officials are then forced to ban bathing to give beach bacteria levels time to drop.

For more information about ocean water quality, please visit www.nrdc.org.

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