EAST LYME – High levels of bacteria have caused the entire swimming area at Rocky Neck State Park in East Lyme to close for the first time since 2010, according to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).
DEEP conducts water quality tests at 23 state swimming areas weekly and this week the department found unsafe levels of bacteria at the popular state park beach.
“It is a very protective standard, so it is set to be safe,” said DEEP Spokesman Dennis Schain.
He says there is the possibility of people getting sick if they swim in the water. Symptoms could include fever, diarrhea and vomiting.
Schain said these types of bacteria levels are more common inland, but the recent rain is likely causing the unusually high levels at Rocky Neck.
There is also an eastern area of Rocky Neck where marsh water flows into the sound. Swimming is no longer allowed in the park’s east end because bacteria-related closures were so common. Schain said that section had to close five times in 2014 and four times in 2013.
“This time though, we’re finding samples from along the whole stretch of the beach for the park to be high,” said Schain.
He said the bacteria comes from different sources, including water running through the marsh and running over litter, decaying vegetation and dog and goose feces.
The bacteria levels and test results are very localized, which is why the three other state run beaches are not facing the same closure.
East Lyme’s Parks and Recreation department says the town beaches are open this weekend and a sanitarian at Ledge Light Health District says none of the adjacent public beaches they manage in the area have elevated bacteria levels that warrant closure.
DEEP will re-sample the water at Rocky Neck on Monday with the hopes of opening the swimming area again as soon as Tuesday. During this time, Rocky Neck State Park is still open to the public and visitors can enjoy all other on and off beach activities besides swimming.