Major upgrades to the Northport wastewater treatment plant helped make it possible for the Centerport Yacht Club Beach to reopen Monday for the first time since 2008, state, county and local officials announced.
After temporary closures from 2008 to 2010, the state and county ordered the beach permanently closed in 2010 -- a major step taken due to the serious health risk posed by high levels of bacteria in the water at that time.
In 2010, 19.4 pounds of nitrogen were being released into the harbor every day. That is now down to an average of 7.5 pounds per day, said Suffolk County Legis. William Spencer (D-Centerport), who has been a longtime advocate for addressing the beach closure and helped secure the $4 million in county funding for the plant upgrades.
The reopening represents improved water quality beyond the club's private beach to waters across the Huntington and Northport region.
Former yacht club commodore Joe Morency recalled the day in 2009 when he learned the yacht club would not receive its swimming permit for the season. He said he received a more than 100-page Suffolk County Department of Health Services report that had "frightening" conclusions: The bacteria in the water had reached levels that could make children under 10 sick.
"We were blindsided," said Morency, who is also a member of the Northport Harbor Water Quality Protection Committee formed by the town after the closure of the beach. Huntington Town Supervisor Frank P. Petrone and Adrianne Esposito of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment co-chaired the committee, which included members from federal, state, county and village governments, as well as representatives from the community.
Officials in Spencer's office said that, in addition to the upgrades to the Northport plant, other factors have contributed to the improved conditions, including repairs to outflow and storm pipes in Northport Harbor that collect more of the pollutants during the discharge process, and a boom in the oyster population, which acts as a natural filter for the pollutants.
The Suffolk County Department of Health Services, with the oversight by the New York State Department of Health, spent months leading up to the reopening of the beach conducting extensive data collection at Centerport and throughout the harbor.
Officials completed more than 600 tests in 20 locations since April, ultimately finding the quality of the water met stringent county and state standards for reopening.