Monday, August 06, 2007

A Day at the Beach and Other Observations

Hammonassett State Park was mobbed yesterday, which isn’t surprising considering it was one of the most beautiful days of the year. What was surprising to me and my wife, Gina, though were the number of different languages being spoken and the number of different ethnicities in evidence. We agreed that there was easily more non-English being spoken than there was English.

The only parking area open when we arrived, about 2 p.m., was on the west end. Indians – or perhaps Pakistanis – had staked out the pavilions and the tree-shaded areas near the parking lot, and women in sarongs were cooking over gas grills. On the beach we heard four or five European languages. There were Africans, and a family speaking Chinese, and Spanish, of course. Near the dunes was a woman in a flowing silk sarong, and down the beach we could see two women in what I imagine were Islamic abayas or burqas. After an hour or so of sitting and reading under an umbrella, I got up and asked the people next to us – two young men and two young women – what language they were speaking.

“Albanian,” they all answered together.

“I was going to guess Croatian,” I said.

“Close enough,” one of the women said.

My son, who is 9, went into the water when we arrived and essentially stayed there, diving for rocks or skim-boarding on the edge – until we left, a bit before 7. I went in twice, Gina once, and my daughter, who is 14 and who requires great feats of persuasion to go anywhere with us, read and walked and skimboarded. The water was pleasantly cool and murky, there were no jellyfish – which can be a problem at Hammonasset – and by 4:30 or 5 the crowd began to thin out. It was almost a perfect afternoon at the beach.

That's what it was like there. What is it like elsewhere on Long Island Sound? The Connecticut DEP says hypoxia in the western half of the Sound looks as if it’s going to be a bit worse than usual:

The 2007 August Water Quality Survey was conducted 30 July through 1 August. Forty-one stations were sampled. Bottom water dissolved oxygen concentrations fell below 3.5 mg/L at 25 stations. Last year 26 stations had concentrations less than 3.5 mg/L. The lowest concentration was observed at Station A4 (1.6 mg/L). This is approximately 1 mg/L higher than the concentration documented last year at A4. The area estimated with dissolved oxygen levels below 4.8 mg/L is 1480 square kilometers while 916.6 square kilometers were below 3.5 mg/L. Data to date suggest the hypoxia extent and duration will be above average.

Here are a few stories from over the weekend:

Oysters and nitrogen removal (an idea that’s hard not to like).

Lobsterman and the v-notch program.

Westchester and sewage treatment

I have a lot of thoughts about this last story – that is, about Westchester County and its sewage treatment plants. I’ve said this before, I think, and I should say it again: Because of my job and the relationship between my organization and Westchester County, I’ve always restricted what I’ve written here about the county. No one has even ever as much as hinted that I should censor myself but I’ve considered it the wise thing to do. So when you read about Westchester County here you should consider it a simple re-telling of the facts as I know them or as presented elsewhere – or as close to that as I can get.

Unfortunately, this realization has sapped my enthusiasm for blogging about the Sound. For that and other reasons, I’m taking a vacation from blogging until after Labor Day at least. I’ll be at the beach for two of those weeks anyway. I’ll see what happens when I get back.

And of course is something big happens between now and my vacation that I feel the need to mouth off about, all bets are off.


Anonymous PB said...

My wife and I are regulars at Hammonasset and often walk there on weekday evenings. It's like the UN over there. Many Eastern European languages are heard along with French (Jacques Pepin and friends are regulars), Greek, Spanish, German, Dutch, and quite a few others. I often wonder what it is about this park (other than the natural beauty) that attracts so many from all around the world.

11:57 AM  
Blogger Tamara said...

I hope you enjoy your well deserved break, Tom. Hopefully you'll return refreshed and reenergized.

7:42 PM  
Anonymous EB said...


Several years ago I was appointed to my towns’ Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA). Having been a lifelong recreational user of Long Island Sound I thought the appointment was appropriate. I was sadly mistaken. The issues we handle as an authority are complex, scientific and contentious. Not being in the sewage treatment industry, I had to learn about sewage treatment and quickly to fulfill my charge.

That is where you and your blog came in. Your blog is not only informative, it is unbiased. Your references to published articles keep me current on key issues and the varied opinions associated with them. I often forward your source documents to other town leaders and commission chairman.

I sympathize with you questioning your blogging efforts. I can only imagine how much time and energy you put into it. I am now Chairman of our town’s WPCA, due in great part to the information your blog puts at my disposal.

Your efforts have had a positive impact on our mindset as an Authority.

Keep at it.

Edward J. Bateson III
Town of Fairfield
Water Pollution Control Authority

9:41 AM  
Blogger Sam said...

See Tom, you were just complaining about low blog hit-counts and what seemed to be a lack of interest in your ideas. Only a few people ever comment. Wrong-o, you inveterate Long Island Sound swamp rat! Your audience might be quiet lurkers, but it's a great audience and the people you want - as opposed to people looking for a political fight somewhere (anybody know what a "neo-leftist" is please let me know - I was called that once).

If you're checking while on vacation in lovely Block Island, check out the shellfish commission and a dude name Bo Gemp or something like that. Just give him a call. Bo used to be the clam cop down by Andy's Way after the old lady passed on. He might look surly - even his beard is always having a bad-hair day - but latest I heard he has some great ideas for scallops, clams, upwellers, and all kinds of cool stuff. He's the kind of person that gets excited when you talk about his pet projects.

And have some fun!

12:31 PM  

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