Brown’s Beach on Saratoga Lake, which opened last year as the first public beach on the lake in nearly a decade, is currently closed because tests showed that levels of E. coli were above state standards, the state Department of Health said Friday.
A statement issued by the department did not identify a source of the E. coli, but said the beach will remain closed until the levels subside.
“The town of Stillwater has taken additional samples and once water quality improves and is below the state standard, the beach may reopen for swimming and wading,” the DOH’s statement reads. “State DOH will continue to work with the town to evaluate potential sources of the bacteria and mitigation steps.”
The beach is owned by the town of Stillwater and opened to public swimming in May 2015. The town purchased the property in 2013 for $4.1 million, preserving public access and heading off a potential hotel or condominiums.
Stillwater Town Supervisor Edward Kinowski on Friday said he is working with the state to get further testing complete and hopefully reopen the beach for swimming.
The beach is open for sunbathing at no cost, but “no swimming” signs were posted Friday, as they have been since July 7, Kinowski said.
E. coli may increase the risk of contracting illness through swimming and wading. Kinowski said he is unsure what could have caused the readings, though he noted two possibilities.
A sewage spill about a mile north of the beach on July 4 sent an estimated 5,000 gallons of untreated sewage into the lake. However, the state Department of Environmental Conservation reported two days after the spill that there were no significant environmental impacts from the spill.
Kinowski said it would be “close to impossible” for the spill to affect the beach so far away. He also said that town tests of the general swim area July 6 showed it “well under standards.”
He cited another possible suspect: seagulls.
Kinowski said the town has seen a large community of the birds take up residence in the area of the beach this year.
“It’s large. Could they be causing the problem? The answer is yes, they can,” Kinowski said. “But why are they coming? Because people leave food behind. Even though we clean the beach, they scour for the little tiny bits.”
He noted Collins Lake in Scotia had a similar problem with geese years ago.
Whatever the cause, swimmers were out of luck on Friday, though sunbathers could stay.
Carol Raabe, who was sitting in her beach chair Friday, said she discovered the beach last year and has returned several times with family and by herself. The Guilderland resident said “It’s not exactly close [to home], but because it’s so pleasant, I don’t mind the drive.”
She said she understood the need to ban swimming for public safety.
“It’s a very hot day. They gave me a water, so that was nice.”
Reach Gazette reporter Steven Cook at 395-3122, [email protected] or @ByStevenCook on Twitter.