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Douglaston beach has big bacteria problem: City

Douglas Manor has been closed more than any other borough beach this year due to high bacteria counts in the water, but a new study ranked the Rockaways highly among the city's beaches, a spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council said.

The NRDC study, released Tuesday at Long Island City's water taxi beach, reviewed bacteria counts at beaches across the nation resulting from a variety of factors, including sewage spills and pollution washed into waterways by rainfall, as well as rated beaches based on water quality and how often they were closed down for safety reasons.

Douglaston's Douglas Manor exceeded acceptable bacteria count levels by 20 percent, according to the nonprofit environmental group, while Breezy Point in the Rockaways exceeded acceptable levels by 8 percent, according to the study.

But seven other Rockaway beaches met acceptable levels and were rated three stars out of four, ranking them among the higher echelon of city beaches.

The city's Health Department said Douglas Manor, sampled once per week, was closed this year from June 13 to July 18 because water quality did not meet acceptable standards for swimming.

After the beach reopened July 18, it was placed under a wet weather advisory from July 23-26, the department said. A wet weather advisory warns swimmers that specific levels of rainfall could cause pollution to be washed into a waterway.

NRDC spokesman Larry Levine said the Douglaston beach's closure for more than one month was a long time for a beach to be shut down.

"Douglaston is the beach that is closed the most," he said. "It's had a very high number of days and advisories for a number of years. The city believes there is discharge from marinas and sewer runoff. Even when we get a little rain, the sewer system cannot handle it at all. There's also pollution washing off from parking lots, roads and lawns."

The study also found that the state ranked eighth worst in the nation for the number of days in which its beaches exceeded safe levels of bacteria counts.

Closures at Long Island beaches rose from 866 days in 2006 to 1,397 in 2007, the study found. The cleanest beach in the region was Long Island's Jones Beach State Park, the study found.

An NRDC spokeswoman said swimming at one of the beaches with high bacteria counts in the five boroughs could lead to skin rashes, pink eye, respiratory ailments, an irritated throat or gastroenteritis.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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