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City closes in on Crescent Beach cleanup method

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For 10 years, Glen Cove’s Crescent Beach has been closed due to bacterial contaminants found in the stream that empties out into the beach.

Although the level of contamination has changed over the decade and has been mostly concentrated to water 4 feet from the coast, there have been instances when the concentration of bacteria has been 1,000 times higher than what is deemed safe for humans, according to repeated testing by Save the Sound, a nonprofit organization based in New Haven, Conn., dedicated to preserving the Long Island Sound and the communities on its coastlines.

Save the Sound gave Crescent Beach a D rating on its 2019 analysis, one of the lowest ratings among Long Island Sound’s 204 beaches. But all that could be coming to an end as a report from H2M, the architecture and engineering firm the city hired to help come up with solutions to clean the polluted stream, nears completion. Among some of the preliminary options, Glen Cove City Mayor Timothy Tenke highlighted three possible solutions during a Glen Cove Pre-Council meeting on Aug. 20.

“One of the proposals we’re hearing about would be to install helix filter systems in two locations to clean the storm water and deal with the contamination at the beach,” Tenke said.

The helix filters would essentially clean filter water through the use of centrifugal force, where the filters spin at a high velocity to separate heavier particles away from the water and flush the accumulated mass. Tenke said these filters were relatively simple to use, added no real noise pollution and wouldn’t disturb the environment, as they would be encased in a pipe.

The city also mulled the possibility of air stripping, which entails using closed treatment systems that pump air through water to remove volatile organic compounds from the water. Such systems can be relatively loud, so they would be enclosed to avoid noise pollution at the private properties along Crescent Beach. An ultraviolet purification system, which destroyers microorganisms concentrated UV lighting, was yet another possibility

For Sarah Meyland, the associate professor at New York Institute of Technology who oversees the school’s Center for Water Resources Management, clean up at Crescent Beach could be accomplished by constructing simulated wetlands. The stream flowing onto Crescent Beach, she said, is a perfect candidate for such a process.

“Wetlands are naturally a water filter system,” she said. “As water migrates through a wetland, water quality is improved.”

The roots of plants in wetlands — especially sea grasses — can soak up harmful bacteria, Meyland explained. And the bacteria and other microorganisms already present in wetlands soil can kill intrusive bacteria. As a result, water flowing through these wetlands can come out much cleaner than when it entered them.

Heather Johnson, executive director of Friends of the Bay in Oyster Bay, said that natural solutions such as Meyland’s suggestion are almost always preferable to machinery-based methods. They typically have more long-term benefits, Johnson said, and tend to be safer means of pollution control. “It usually seems to work best when we work with Mother Nature,” she said.

Grant Newburger, public relations officer for Glen Cove, said that the city would weigh all its options once H2M’s report comes out in the near future. He said that the city was hoping to start the cleaning process as soon as possible in order to open the beach by the summer of 2020.