This summer has been filled with excitement for the Eastern Long Island Chapter. On top of the successes of our Strawless Summer Program, continual beach cleanups and education events, the Blue Water Task Force (BWTF) program is stronger than ever.

As of this July, our water sampling volunteers began also assisting the Suffolk County Department of Health Services (SCDHS) in collecting samples at much of their eastern-most sampling locations (on the South Fork) for the Bathing Beach Monitoring Program. As part of the monitoring program, the SCDHS monitors bathing beaches located on bays, harbors, ponds, lakes and the Atlantic Ocean between May and September. The primary goal is to ensure the health of individuals who recreate in the 190+ beaches throughout the county. The frequency of sampling depends on the type of sampling location and the availability of resources. Surfrider is now providing the “boots on the ground” to collect samples and support Suffolk County’s water testing program in order to augment the water quality data that currently exists for East End beaches.

The purposes of the SCDHS Beach Monitoring Program align well with the goals of our BWTF program, with the data collectively used to inform Suffolk County residents about where it is safe to swim, surf and play, and where water quality problems exist.

Volunteers were trained by the SCDHS to collect water samples in accordance with their SOP and the NYSDOH approved sampling workplan.  Together, 28 sampling locations are now being sampled every other week, including 9 sites in Montauk, 10 sites in East Hampton/Springs, and 9 sites in Southampton. Sampling for SCDHS is done alongside our own BWTF sampling sites, as there is an overlap between our two sampling programs. We hope that this budding relationship with SCDHS will continue to grow into the future as our two programs provide more holistic water quality data for all East-End residents.

All BWTF data can be found here: http://surfrider.org/blue-water-task-force/

All SCDHS data can be found here: http://gis3.suffolkcountyny.gov/bathingbeaches/

Once the water samples are collected by staff and volunteers, analyses are conducted by the SCDHS’s state and nationally accredited Public and Environmental Health Laboratory (PEHL).  The SCDHS samples areas at high risk of contamination, such as embayments with little tidal flushing and in close proximity to stormwater outfall pipes, two to three times per week.  Ocean beaches are sampled less frequently because the threat of contamination is reduced.

The primary goal of our chapter’s volunteer-based water quality program is also to ensure the health of individuals who recreate in our local waterways. Our dedicated volunteers sample weekly in the summer and monthly in the winter at over 50 sites between East Quogue and Montauk. The data we collect informs the local Eastern Long Island community of where it is safe to swim. We also analyze our consistent data to find trends and to comprehend what impacts our water so we can hearten individuals to find solutions to the problems impacting our water quality.