New York City Sizzles During Heat Wave, But Some Of Its Beaches Are Contaminated With Fecal Bacteria

Patricia Grannum

New York City has got some dirty beaches. The city's health department records show that three of Brooklyn's beaches were labeled unsafe for swimmers for an extended period because of excessive fecal bacteria in the water, the New York Post reports. According to the article, the beaches were closed for 101 days over two summers because of contamination.

The term fecal bacteria/Enterococci bacteria refers to the organisms that live in the intestines of animals. Swimming in water contaminated by these organisms can lead to digestive issues like diarrhea, vomiting, and infection.

The beaches affected by the high concentration of bacteria are located around the Rockaway Inlet. As the New York Post reports, inlet beaches tend to be more stagnant than oceanic beaches. The Manhattan, Kiddie, and Kingsborough Community College beaches have accumulated three times the number of public health warnings than the other seven public beaches in New York City.

The city dumps over 25 billion gallons of raw sewage and stormwater into the New York harbor each year, along with overflow water from sanitary-storm sewers, says Dan Shapely from the water conservation advocacy group, Riverkeeper. He added that some of New York's sewer systems were developed "when people were dying of cholera and the goal was to get [the sewage] out and away from the neighborhood as fast as possible."

The news about the prevalence of fecal bacteria at these New York City beaches comes in the midst of a record-setting heat wave. ABC News reports that temperatures stretched into the 90s on Saturday and reached a high of 96 degrees in New Jersey and 93 degrees in Central Park. The heat was set to hit 98 degrees in New York on Sunday, and heat indexes were expected to be in the 80s on Sunday night.

The last time temperatures hit 100 degrees in New York was in 2012.

But beachgoers at Kiddie Beach told the New York Post that they were unconcerned by the possibility of contamination. One person claimed that they had been swimming in the water at the beach for years and had never been negatively affected.

Despite the high number of previous bacteria warnings, the New York City Health Department has said that the city's beaches are safe for swimmers.

"The city's public beaches are safe and clean, and they're open for the season," said spokeswoman Danielle De Souza.