Three University at Buffalo students are helping an assemblyman focus on improving water quality at Woodlawn Beach State Park.
“We’re interested in improving conditions at the beach,” said Cody M. Meyers, a spokesman for Assemblyman Sean M. Ryan, D-Buffalo.
Jennifer O’Neil, Aubrey Beckinghausen and Chris Wood, students in geography, chemical engineering and geology, respectively, reported on their preliminary study Thursday evening at Hilbert College.
While the beach was open most days last summer, Woodlawn and other beaches on Lake Erie have been plagued with closures due to water contamination. When E. coli bacteria levels go above a certain level, usually after heavy rains, the water is closed to swimming, though the beaches remain open.
Martin C. Denecke, director of youth, recreation and adult services for the Town of Hamburg, said that there may be a negative connotation with Woodlawn Beach, but that efforts are being made to improve conditions. The beach is owned by the state and operated by the town, and the state has a field scientist on site during the summer taking samples, he said.
“I just want to make sure the efforts are coordinated,” he said. “I want to make sure people know there’s already things in place that are happening that are aimed at eventually mitigating the problem.”
Ryan is looking for ways to supplement efforts, and to come up with new ideas, Meyers said.
John R. Finster, a consultant for the Erie County Health Department, said the county and the state are looking at contamination at beaches in the county. A study of Lake Erie Beach and the Town of Evans beach in 2007 and 2008 found that the major source of contamination was the storm sewer outfalls into the creeks.
“We found flow from the storm sewers had a human fecal component,” he said, indicating that sanitary sewage was getting into storm sewers.