FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. — You may want to think twice before heading to the shore — Connecticut ranked 26th out of 30 states in a new report when it came to overall swimming-water quality.
Beach-closing days along Long Island Sound soared from 143 in 2010 to 538 last year, according to a report released Wednesday by the National Resources Defense Council.
Out of the samples taken on 73 beaches in the state, 11 percent exceeded the national limits for bacteria, the report said. It cited these reasons for contaminated waters:
• 304, or 57 percent, due to stormwater runoff;
• 78, or 14 percent, due to sewage spills or leaks;
• 138, or 26 percent, other sources; and
• 18, or 3 percent, unknown contamination sources.
Beaches in New Haven County and New London County had the highest exceedance rate of the state standard in 2011 at 11 percent, followed by Fairfield County at 10 percent.
But the marked increase in the number of beach closures in 2011 was largely because of debris hazards created by Hurricane Irene, which struck in late summer, the report said.
Greenwich's Byram Beach led Fairfield County's closures with 14 last year, followed by Penfield, Jennings, Sasco, Southport and South Pine Creek beaches, all in Fairfield, all with 11 closings each, the report said. Stamford's Cummings, East Beach, Quigley and West Beach came in with 10 closures each. Coming in with nine closures each were Pear Tree Point Beach and Weed Beach in Darien.
Heavy rains, such as those that hit last weekend and earlier this week, contaminate the sound with runoff from roads, animal waste and sewage spills, according to Department of Energy and Environmental Protection spokesman Dwayne Gardner.
Gardner said that when the weather clears up, the contamination evens out on its own. "Normally nature takes care of it itself," he said. "The sun coming out will take care of the contaminants."
On Wednesday, the day the report was released, the beaches at Sherwood Island, Silver Sands and Rocky Neck state parks were closed after water samples showed contaminants, Gardner said.
For more information and to stay up-to-date on beach closures, go to www.ct.gov/deep