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Bacteria temporarily closes Brown's Beach in Stillwater

Bacteria temporarily closes Brown's Beach in Stillwater

High E. coli levels blamed on geese
Bacteria temporarily closes Brown's Beach in Stillwater
A lifeguard uses a rake to clear algae at Brown’s Beach on Saratoga Lake in Stillwater on Monday.
Photographer: Peter Barber / Gazette Photographer

STILLWATER -- The popular Brown's Beach on Saratoga Lake is temporarily closed due to high bacteria levels, in a situation town officials blame on geese and other birds in the area.

The sandy town-owned beach was closed Friday after a routine daily test found high levels of e.coli bacteria, Town Supervisor Ed Kinowski said. He said the town tests daily for both e.coli and coliform, either of which can potentially impact human health.

Kinowski said the town is taking measures to discourage geese and seagulls from lingering around the beach and the adjoining marina, and added that he is optimistic this week's weather will help, since the ultraviolet light in sunshine breaks the bacteria down.  "The cool temperatures will help, and the sunlight will help, it eats that stuff right up," he said. "We'll test daily until we get a good result."

Once bacteria levels drop, Kinowski said, the town will announce the beach's re-opening on its website and Facebook page.

The state Health Department is also monitoring the situation.

"The town of Stillwater took the appropriate action to close the beach when one of their routine water quality testing results exceeded the bacteriological indicator level of 235 e.coli per 100 ml., as specified in the State Sanitary Code," said Jeffrey Hammond, a spokesman for the state Health Department.

This is the first time the beach has had an elevated bacteria level this season, the Health Department said. The beach can be re-opened as soon as bacteria levels come down.

The situation is similar that one that caused an extended closure of the beach in 2016, Kinowski said. That closure lasted a month, while the town took measures to drive geese and seagulls away.

This is the first significant closure since then. Birds are again believed to be the root cause of the problem. "What I've learned since operating this beach is that geese, if they come in large numbers, can really cause bad water quality," Kinowski said.

Kinowski was at the beach Monday morning helping with measures being taken to address the problem, including a crew removing weeds on either side of the beach that can retain bird feces and placing fencing that can keep geese from moving between the water and shore, which Kinowski said will discourage the birds from staying.

While Brown's Beach has been a historic swimming spot on the lake, it was closed for about a decade. The town purchased the land to re-establish the beach, and re-opened it as the only public swimming access to Saratoga Lake in 2015.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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