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Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Release # 040-07
Friday, May 25, 2007

CONTACT INFORMATION FOR MEDIA: (212) 788-5290
Andrew Tucker (atucker@health.nyc.gov)
Sara Markt (smarkt@health.nyc.gov)


HEALTH DEPARTMENT OPENS NEW YORK CITY PUBLIC BEACHES FOR SWIMMING

NEW YORK CITY – May 25, 2007 – The New York City Health Department today announced that all of the City's 20 public and permitted private beaches will be open for the season beginning tomorrow, Saturday, May 26 at 10:00 A.M. The Health Department performs regular testing of the City's beach water and inspects beaches to ensure compliance with local, state and federal regulations that affect recreational swimming safety. Water quality test results, beach advisories and beach closures are posted online at www.nyc.gov/health/beach and are updated regularly throughout the summer. Advisory and closure information is also available through 311.

Public beaches open for swimming include:

Bronx: Orchard Beach
Brooklyn: Brighton Beach, Coney Island, Manhattan Beach
Queens: Rockaway Beach
Staten Island: Midland Beach, South Beach, Wolfe's Pond Park

"New York City beaches are open and safe for swimming," said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas R. Frieden. "Swimming is a fun and great way to get exercise and stay cool in the summer. It's important to stay safe by swimming with a buddy and swimming where a lifeguard is on duty. Parents should supervise kids and no one should swim if they don't know how, if they have been drinking alcohol, or if beaches are closed."

"Sometimes water near our beaches can become contaminated, which may pose a health risk," Dr. Frieden said. "Those most affected by contamination include infants and toddlers, people over age 65, and those with underlying medical conditions. Check for beach closures and advisories by visiting our website at www.nyc.gov/health/beach or by calling 311."

Wet Weather Advisory

A wet weather advisory may be issued after heavy rainfall, which could lead to sewer overflows and storm runoff (e.g., from streets and other properties). This can sometimes cause elevated levels of bacteria in some beach waters, which may pose a public health risk. Swallowing water with bacteria can cause stomach illness. Infants and toddlers, people over 65, and people with chronic medical conditions are more likely to have severe illness if they swallow contaminated beach water. Only certain beaches are affected by Wet Weather Advisories (see online: www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/beach/beach_adv.shtml#wetweather). The Health Department advises against swimming and bathing in any area with a Wet Weather Advisory.

Advisory

An advisory is issued to notify the public against swimming and bathing when water quality assessment indicates that bacteria levels or other conditions may contribute to possible illness. The Health Department advises against swimming and bathing in waters with an Advisory.

Closed

Beaches are closed if weather or environmental conditions warrant, and if there is a significant threat to public health. City beaches may be classified as closed when one or a combination of any of the following conditions exists:

  • Confirmed samples show enterococci (bacteria) levels in beach waters exceeding standards.
  • Test results indicate a significant incidence of related illnesses or repeated complaints, reports of illness or injury received from beach patrons.
  • There are potentially hazardous amounts of floating debris, medical or infectious waste, toxic contaminants, petroleum products or other contamination on the beach, or there is evidence of sewage and wastewater discharge that may adversely affect the water quality.
  • Any other environmental factors exist which the Department determines to be a public health or safety hazard.

Water Quality Testing

Using EPA standards, the Health Department tests beach water for the presence of enterococci bacteria. These microscopic organisms are commonly found in the feces of humans and other warm-blooded animals. The presence of enterococci in water is an indication of fecal pollution and the possible presence of enteric (intestinal) pathogens which may cause illness.

For regularly updated information on beach closures and advisories, log on to www.nyc.gov/health/beach, or call 311. For information on becoming a Lifeguard, go to the NYC/Department of Parks and Recreation webpage at www.nyc.gov/parks.

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