A new report pegs Ontario Park beach in Charlotte as one of 17 public bathing beaches across the county with persistent contamination problems that lead to a large number of temporary closings.
from the Natural Resources Defense Council says that each of the beaches failed to meet public health benchmarks more than 25 percent of the time each year between 2009 to 2013. The annual report provides a national overview of trends in beach closings, but also includes contains a state by state rundown of public beaches and how often they close to swimming. New York's section is available here
The report lists the number of times each beach was sampled, and the percentage of those samples that didn't meet federal beach water safety guidelines. Here's what it says about Monroe County's public swimming beaches:
Out of 248 samples from Ontario beach, 40 percent didn't meet the guidelines;
Out of 84 samples at Durand-Eastman Beach, 21 percent didn't meet the guidelines;
Out of 92 samples at Hamlin Beach State Park Area 3, 13 percent didn't meet the guidelines;
Out of 91 samples at Hamlin Beach State Park Area 4, 27 percent didn't meet the guidelines.
The report advocates for new national standards to determine whether public beaches should be open or closed to swimming. The standards NRDC wants would be more conservative regarding allowable bacteria levels.
Monroe County has long used a model that considers bacteria levels along with other factors, including recent rainfall, algae levels, water cloudiness, and the rate at which the Genesee River is flowing into Lake Ontario. But it's been developing a new model in partnership with the US Geological Survey, which could help county officials make better decisions about when to close beaches.
Nationally, storm water runoff is one of the biggest contributors to contamination and pollution that leads to beach closings, the report says. In the Rochester region, researchers and government officials have worked for years to identify sources of runoff into the near-shore waters of Lake Ontario. Nutrient pollution that encourages algae growth has been a particular problem.
Reseachers and officials have made some significant gains, but closings at Ontario and Durand-Eastman beaches remain a problem. Some researchers believe agricultural runoff into the Genesee River, which empties into the lake, are a big contributor. But some smaller, downstream waste water treatment plants that discharge into the river or its tributaries also add to nutrient levels in the water.