Blue Water Task Force on Eastern Long Island, New York
photo: Dalton Portella
Last summer the Eastern Long Island (ELI) Chapter joined forces with a local partner, the Concerned Citizens of Montauk (CCOM), to begin water quality testing at some of the most popular swimming and surfing beaches on Eastern Long Island. CCOM is a like-minded, locally based environmental non-profit organization that works to preserve and protect the unique environment and ecology of Montauk, NY.
The main purpose of this BWTF program is to raise public awareness of local water quality challenges. It covers a variety of coastal waters, including popular ocean and bay beaches, their freshwater inputs, and a large coastal pond located right in the middle of downtown Montauk. Volunteers from both partner organizations collect samples weekly during the warmer summer and fall months and monthly during the colder winter and spring seasons. They also sample after major rain events and process their samples at a water testing laboratory located at the CCOM office. This joint water testing program was actually one of the most prolific within the program during 2013 with 202 water test results reported on the BWTF website. Go to the BWTF website to see a map of their water testing sites and their water quality data.
Besides their regularly scheduled testing, the BWTF volunteers have hosted sampling events for local high school students introducing them to field sampling and laboratory techniques as well as local water quality issues.
This young water testing program has already achieved some success in motivating local change. Three of their sites are located at an enclosed bay beach on Lake Montauk that once had an officially designated bathing area that has since been closed due to water quality concerns. Unfortunately this beach is still favored by families with small children because of its calm water conditions. The Chapter’s water quality data has demonstrated that the bacteria levels at this beach and in the two freshwater creeks that flow into the Lake nearby, often exceed health standards, and they have convinced the Town to develop permanent signage to be posted at the beach warning of the chronically polluted conditions. Their data is also being considered by the Town as they conduct a watershed study for Lake Montauk which will assess local water quality conditions and sources of pollution. The Chapter and CCOM both hope that the increased public awareness generated by the new beach signs and watershed study will also generate the political will to find and fix the sources of bacteria pollution into the Lake Montauk, which they suspect will likely end up being residential septic systems located too close to the water.