Authorities declare 13 Long Island beaches off limits due to bacteria levels


Fourth of July weekend travelers to Long Island in New York will have to stay dry and off the waters for now as authorities warn of high bacteria levels caused by storm water run-offs.

Hurricane Arthur is no longer a hurricane and is thankfully leaving the country and making its way towards Canada, but its effects are still felt along the eastern coast of the United States. In suburban Nassau County east of New York City, health officials have determined that bacteria levels in 10 beaches on the North Shore and one South Shore beach are too high to allow swimming and other water activities.

The county's health department banned the following North Shore beaches: Centre Island Sound, Creek Club, Lattingtown Beach, Laurel Hollow Beach, Piping Rock Beach Club, Pryibil Beach, Ransom Beach, Theodore Roosevelt Beach, Soundside Beach and Stehil Beach. Over on the South Shore, Biltmore Beach Club is also off limits to swimmers because of rising levels of bacteria.

The Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation said it also closed two other beaches in Heckscher State Park in East Islip earlier this week, namely West Shore's Field 6 and Overlook Shore's West 8, but reopened the beaches after water quality testing proved the water's bacteria levels are safe for human contact.

Meanwhile, in Metropolitan Boston in Massachusetts, all 68 South Shore beaches remain open after state and local officials tested water quality for presence of dangerous bacteria, including Wollaston Beach in Quincy, which has shown a steady history of high bacteria levels following heavy rains.

Storm water run-offs from heavy rains can carry contaminated water from sewage and septic containers into streams and rivers that flow into bays and beaches, bringing elevated levels of the enterococcus bacterium into the ocean. Enterecoccus is a bacterium produced in the intestines of humans and other animals that is highly resistant to antibiotics. Persons infected with the bacteria can exhibit symptoms of urinary tract infections, meningitis and diverticulitis, or, in worse cases, infection of the inner heart tissue or inclusion of bacteria into the bloodstream.

To test for the presence of the bacterium, health officials extract bacterial colonies from the water and place them on a nutrient-soaked gel to encourage the bacteria to grow. They will then leave the bacteria-infused gel to stay in an incubator for 24 hours, where single cells will grow colonies visible to the naked eye overnight. If the colonies exceed 104, the water is considered unsafe and beach-goers are banned from going into the water.  

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