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Greenwich Daily Voice serves Greenwich, CT

Is It Safe To Go Out in Greenwich Waters?

Beach season is officially upon Greenwich, but how do you know whether that Long Island Sound water is clean? The town Division of Environmental Services is making sure to tell residents when it’s safe to go into the water.

Water samples are taken weekly at Greenwich Point, Byram Beach and soon at Island Beach. Doug Serafin, director of the town’s laboratory, says beaches are closed only if water is found to be contaminated with bacteria called enteroccoccus, which may potentially harm people in the form of hepatitis A, typhoid or salmonella.

“It doesn’t happen that often,” said Serafin. “Huge rainstorms that we had before Memorial Day produced runoff that made the levels go up. Land beaches are more vulnerable than the island beaches, because there’s so much flow around the islands, so they rarely close.”

Michael Long, director of the town’s Division of Environmental Services, said samples are taken at three sites along each beach to determine whether levels are elevated. If elevated levels of enteroccoccus are found, it may indicate sewage.

The samples are placed into cells that break down agents to make a fluorescent end product, which is then placed under a fluorescent light. If cells are contaminated with enteroccoccus, the water will glow a bright blue. “It’s quite pretty,” said Serafin. “We count up the numbers of blue cells that are fluorescing and that number is proportional to the amount of endrocochis in the water. If it reaches a certain number, the beach fails.”

In 2009, there were 14 closures at Byram Beach, which is more susceptible to closures because it is a cove. Last year, there were only seven closings because of rainfall.

In June, Greenwich Point remains open unless there is excessive rainfall. But in July, rainfall greater than 1.5 inches of rain will close recreational swimming for one day. During August and September, just one inch of rainfall will close swimming for one day.

At Byram Beach, swimming will be off limits automatically for one day if just a half-inch of rain falls. If there are multiple storms, each beach will close for one full day after the rain has stopped.

Call the Beach Hotline at 203-622-7855 for the most accurate and up-to-date status information before you take a dip in the Sound.

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