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Higher Tides Lead to Elevated Bacteria Levels

Sat, 09/26/2020 - 08:29

High tides may be responsible for elevated bacteria levels in multiple East Hampton Town waterways, according to data compiled by Concerned Citizens of Montauk. 

CCOM also reported this week that a bloom of toxic cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, has dissipated in Montauk’s Fort Pond, but that compromised water body remains at high risk for a harmful algal bloom due to elevated cell concentrations. 

In partnership with the Surfrider Foundation’s Blue Water Task Force, CCOM tests and analyzes water bodies in Montauk, Amagansett, and East Hampton for enterococcus, a bacteria that exists in the guts of warm-blooded animals. High levels of enterococcus are considered a risk to human health. The phenomenon is often due to heavy rain, extreme high tides, and/or warm water temperatures. 

Entero levels at 104 colony forming units, or cfu, per 100 milliliters and above are considered a risk to human health, according to CCOM. 

“The high tides have been very high this week,” according to a CCOM a report issued on Wednesday, “which is a possible cause of elevated bacteria levels.” The ocean beach at Surfside Place in Montauk, at which 256 cfu/100 mL were measured, “was experiencing an extremely high tide at the time of sampling, for example, reaching well onto the beach access stairway. High tides, like stormwater runoff, often introduce bacteria into the water by washing animal excrement from shore, or by flooding cesspools that are in or near the groundwater table.” 

The entero sample was much higher at Lake Montauk’s East Creek, at 2,755 cfu/100 mL. A sample at the lake’s West Creek revealed 175 cfu/100 mL. A measurement of 573 cfu/100 mL was recorded at Pussy’s Pond in Springs, and 201 cfu/100 mL at the shipyard ramp at Accabonac Harbor. Two sites at Fresh Pond in Amagansett also recorded high bacteria, according to CCOM. At Louse Point Beach in Accabonac Harbor, the reading was 98 cfu/100 mL. 

CCOM will test again during the week of Sept. 28, and thereafter will reduce its testing schedule to bimonthly.

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