The state Department of Environmental Conservation has notified eight owners of property near Glen Cove’s Crescent Beach that they are potential sources of the contamination that has left the beach closed for swimming since 2009.
The agency next will seek to pinpoint the source of the contamination and, if necessary, take enforcement action.
“If illegal discharges are identified, property owners would need to take corrective action,” such as capping pipes, Carrie Meek Gallagher, director of the DEC’s Stony Brook-based Region 1 office, said in an email.
DEC officials declined to comment on potential penalties. In 2013, the agency fined the owner of an estate near Crescent Beach $8,000 for discharging “waste water” into “waters of the state” and required a discharge pipe to be capped, according to a consent order.
After that pipe was capped, the high bacteria levels at Crescent Beach remained, and the Nassau County Health Department kept the beach closed to swimming and bathing.
The DEC’s notification to the eight property owners, who agency officials declined to name, came after a November visit by DEC officials to a stream that empties into Long Island Sound. Several unpermitted pipes are on the shores and near the stream.
A county-commissioned study released last month found 11 of 12 stream discharge sites sampled within a half mile of the beach had levels of coliform and enterococci — bacteria found in human and animal waste — above the amount allowed by the state, and in some cases, far higher.
It’s still unclear which, if any, of the eight properties is a contamination source. DEC officials said they will ask to inspect the sites and may put nontoxic dyes in septic systems to determine if faulty systems are sending waste through pipes into the stream.
Glen Cove residents have been frustrated by the yearslong beach closure and the continuing uncertainty about the source or sources of the contamination. Chris Grella, a city code enforcement consultant, said finding the contamination source is complicated.
“If you come down here once a week, you’ll find something you didn’t see the last week,” Grella said as he walked through thick brush alongside the stream earlier this month.
Pipes discharging water one day may be dry another, said Grella, who has visited the area and accompanied DEC officials on their recent inspection. High water in the stream hides pipes.
“If I’m out here in the summer, imagine all the overgrowth you’d see,” he said. “In the winter, you’re going to see more” pipes.
Although discharged water has tested positive for bacteria found in human and animal waste, contamination is not visible, so it’s unclear without testing whether a pipe’s water is contaminated, Grella said.
In early December, Grella came across a pipe he hadn’t seen before, because it had been buried under leaves. The flow of water from the pipe had pushed the leaves away.
“Every time I come down here, there are more questions than answers,” he said.