Stormwater runoff, waterfowl, and septic systems all pose a threat to water quality at Byram Beach

Byram Beach. Photo: Kai Sherwin

Byram Beach. Photo Kai Sherwin

For decades, Greenwich has maintained a high level of water quality in three out of its four public beaches: Greenwich Point, Island Beach, and Great Captain’s Island.

The outlier, however, is Byram Beach. Despite a recently opened multi-million dollar public pool at Byram Park, this beach’s water quality levels have remained subpar in comparison to Greenwich’s other beaches.

Statistically, out of 551 samples taken from between January 2004 and August 2018 at the Byram beach, 13% of those tested failed the EPA Safe Swimming Rate. That’s a C+ rating, according to the non-profit watchdog organization Save the Sound and their online program Sound Health Explorer that compiles large amounts of data concerning water quality levels at public beaches along Long Island Sound.

The far more popular Greenwich Point, in that same time span, only had 6% of samples tested fail, which is a B+ rating. Great Captain’s Island earned an A-.

Byram River. Photo Kai Sherwin

Byram River. Photo Kai Sherwin

Why is there such a discrepancy?

The reason for the heightened bacteria levels at Byram Beach is its location “in an enclosed embayment and its proximity to the Byram River,” according to the non-profit watchdog organization Save the Sound. Stormwater runoff, waterfowl, and septic systems all pose a threat to the water quality.

In fact, since Byram Beach is closer to neighborhoods than the other public beaches, stormwater runoff can more easily bring pollutants from trash, animal waste, and other sources of bacteria into Long Island Sound.

Dr. Sarah Crosby, the director of Harbor Watch, a volunteer-assisted water quality program in Fairfield county, said of the situation, “Our program, Harbor Watch, has been monitoring the Byram River for bacterial pollution (E. coli) for the past 3 years. In 2017, 40% of our study sites had bacteria concentrations that exceeded the state standards for allowable levels, however this was an improvement over 2016. We are hopeful that conditions will continue to show signs of improvement when we analyze our 2018 results this fall. We are encouraged by the Town of Greenwich’s efforts to clean up pollution sources that may be contributing to these elevated
concentrations.”

How does this concern you?

Cleaner water leads to healthier lives. Animals, plants, and humans all benefit from the most minimal levels of bacteria in nearby bodies of water. Neglect for the Byram Beach, while a fairly minimal issue, is still emblematic of a broader neglectful attitude towards the local environment, which is especially troubling considering Greenwich’s considerable access to information and resources.

Like any environmental issue, however, there is no quick and easy fix. Only through an engaged and informed citizenry participating in courts, capitals, and town halls across the country can the health of the environment be maintained.

Press your local representatives and decision-makers to push protecting the environment to the forefront of their agendas, and, little by little, help make the world a cleaner place.

Byram Beach. Photo: Kai Sherwin

Byram Beach. Photo: Kai Sherwin

For more information on water-quality related issues in Fairfield County, please see:

Save the Sound: http://soundhealthexplorer.org/

Harbor Watch: http://earthplace.org/page/harborwatchpurposehistory

CT Fund for the Environment: http://www.ctenvironment.org/connecticut-fund-environment/