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Glen Cove beach closure needs additional studies, officials say

Crescent Beach in Glen Cove has been closed

Crescent Beach in Glen Cove has been closed for swimming since 2009 because of bacterial levels. Credit: Howard Schnapp

A study to determine the sources of contamination that have kept a Glen Cove beach closed to swimming for eight years found what Nassau County officials said were unpermitted pipes discharging contaminated water into a stream that crosses the beach and empties into Long Island Sound.

Nassau officials and the engineering firm the county commissioned to conduct the study said it is unclear what role those discharges play in the high bacteria levels that have kept Crescent Beach closed. Also unclear is where the sources of contamination are located, they said.

In all but one of 12 discharge sites sampled, testing found levels of coliform and enterococci — bacteria found in human and animal waste — above the amount allowed by the state, in some cases far above, a Nov. 6 report on the study states.

“Taking all of the information together, it is showing that this could be from some kind of discharge from either a leaky [septic] system or some other issue,” said Steven Fangmann, executive vice president of Woodbury-based D&B Engineers and Architects, which conducted the study.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation is developing a follow-up study and working with county and city officials to try to pinpoint the exact sources of the contamination, officials said.

One possible measure is putting dye in septic systems to trace any discharges, said Brian Schneider, assistant to the deputy commissioner of public works for the county.

The report recommends that “illicit discharge points” either be removed or capped, and the source of any such discharges be removed.

Donald Irwin, director of environmental health for Nassau, said, “It’s impossible to say if the beach would be open if these [pipes] were eliminated” because bacteria comes from other sources as well, including natural runoff.

The latest study is the most thorough of several conducted over the years to try to find the source of contamination.

The DEC has jurisdiction over illegal discharges into the stream and whether to grant permits for pipes. Schneider said the pipes cited in the report do not have permits.

Agency officials said in a statement that it would “take all actions necessary to track down and address the source, or sources, of contamination,” including enforcement actions or penalties against those found to be violating water quality standards.

One discharge studied is “by” the estate of Marvin Schein and “coming from the direction of wetlands,” and another is “presumed to be coming from the direction of” the estate, the report stated. Schein is an art collector and son of the founder of Henry Schein Inc., a Melville-based medical supply firm.

Schein did not return phone calls seeking comment.

In 2013, the DEC fined Schein for allowing raw sewage to discharge into wetlands near Crescent Beach, Newsday has previously reported. Schein paid an $8,000 fine to the state after he was cited for “making or using an outlet or point source discharging to waters of the state or discharging pollutants to the water of the state without a SPDES [State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System] permit.” The Nassau County Department of Health fined Schein $1,000 for “discharge of sewage on to the surface of the ground.”

County officials emphasized that the presence of a pipe near a property or running from the direction of a property does not mean that property is responsible for contamination. Some pipes near a property may connect underground with other pipes, said Gerard Giuliano, an attorney with the health department.

And because much of the area around the stream is muddy, hilly and overgrown, some pipes that could be discharging contaminants may not have been discovered, said Robbin Petrella, an associate at D&B Engineers.

The study also stated that two pipes come from the direction of the property of Saul Katz, co-owner of the Mets.

Katz said that if the DEC finds that his property’s septic system or pipes on his property are contributing to contamination at Crescent Beach, “whatever is wrong will be corrected.”

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