The intent of this site is not necessarily to be a daily update of the status of the beaches but instead a location where we can provide residents an easily accessible site to post the current status of the swimming areas or other information. While the conditions of the beaches and swimming areas are continuously monitored, we only update the site when there is a change in status such as a closure or some other condition (ex. the presence of stinging jellyfish). We don't always have dates on the posts since many of them may be applicable for a week or more. When we do have date specific content, such as a closure, we will include those dates in the post. If there is a change in status, we do our best to update the site by 8am. On occasion we have significant rainfall events that may lead to mid-day closures or we are made aware of issues at other points during the day, on those days we would update this site but also work with the Waterfront Director to initiate the mid-day closure at the affected areas.
Many beaches in Connecticut have large snail populations and recreational use of the waters in these areas can lead to an increased risk of Swimmers Itch in humans. Anyone who swims or wades in infested water may be at risk but the larvae that cause Swimmers Itch are more likely to be present in shallow water by the shoreline. Children are most often affected because they tend to swim, wade, and play in the shallow water more than adults. Also, children are less likely to towel dry after leaving the water, a step that helps prevent the condition. Learn more about swimmer's itch and how to prevent it.
Understanding Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB)
Algae are vitally important to marine and fresh-water ecosystems, and most species of algae are not harmful. However, a harmful algal bloom can occur when certain types of microscopic algae grow quickly in water, forming visible patches that may harm the health of the environment, plants, or animals. HABs can deplete the oxygen and block the sunlight that other organisms need to live, and some HAB-causing algae release toxins that are dangerous to animals and humans. HABs can occur in marine, estuarine, and fresh waters, and HABs appear to be increasing along the coastlines and in the surface waters of the United States, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
CDC works with public health agencies, universities, and federal partners to investigate how the following algae, which can cause HABs, may affect public health:
Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, can produce toxins that may taint drinking water and recreational water. Humans who drink or swim in water that contains high concentrations of cyanobacteria or cyanobacterial toxins may experience gastroenteritis, skin irritation, allergic responses, or liver damage.
Harmful marine algae, such as those associated with red tides, occur in the ocean and can produce toxins that may harm or kill fish and marine animals. Humans who eat shellfish containing toxins produced by these algae may experience neurologic symptoms (such as tingling fingers or toes) and gastrointestinal symptoms. Breathing air that contains toxins from algae associated with red tide may cause susceptible individuals to have asthma attacks.
Pfiesteria piscicida, a single-celled organism that lives in estuaries, has been found near large quantities of dead fish. Scientists do not yet know whether P. piscicida affects human health. However, reports about symptoms such as headache, confusion, skin rash, and eye irritation in humans exposed to water containing high concentrations of P. piscicida have prompted public concern. For more information: http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/hazards/hab/ or http://www.cdc.gov/hab/
When Does the Health Department Close the Waters for Swimming?
In general, any time there is a significant rainfall within the last 24-hours the Health Department will typically preemptively close the waters for swimming. The rainfall amount that triggers closure is 1.0 inches or more of rainfall in last 24-hours for Lake Mohegan and 1.75 inches for the salt water beaches. Previous studies by the Health Department after rainfall events have indicated that these amounts typically resulted in bacteria levels that exceed State and EPA recommended levels for closure. These studies also indicated that in most cases the water quality returns to acceptable levels within 24-hours of a closure. In Fairfield, this is our most common cause for beach closures. On rare occasions we may see receive a result from our weekly sampling which exceeds the recommended levels for closure. Once every few years there may be other issues in the area that may lead to a closure; most often these also occur in conjunction with significant rainfall events when the beaches would typically be closed preemptively.
How Does the Town Monitor the Water Quality at the Beaches?
Each week from Memorial Day to Labor Day staff from the Fairfield Health Department collect water samples from all 5 salt water beaches and Lake Mohegan. This includes 11 bathing water samples as well as duplicate, blank and temperature control samples for quality control purposes. These samples are submitted to the CT Department of Public Health Laboratory in Rocky Hill, CT. While collecting the samples the inspector will conduct a visual inspection of the beach and waters for any irregularities. In addition, each day lifeguards at every beach inspect for any unusual conditions or items that may have washed ashore. Any findings are reported to their supervisor, the Waterfront Director, who reports these to the Director of Health.
Is There a Phone Number I Can Call?
During Work Hours (M-F 8:30-4:30): Health Department 256-3020.
For More Information
This page is maintained by the Fairfield Health Department. For more information on the water quality monitoring of Fairfield's beaches feel free to call us at 256-3020 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org