The Stratford Health Department conducts its seasonal bathing water sampling program and weekly inspections of the Short Beach and Long Beach facilities, including Marnick’s Beach from Memorial Day through Labor Day of each year.  

Water samples are usually collected on Monday mornings by a Sanitarian and submitted to the Connecticut Public Health for laboratory analysis. If elevated levels of bacteria are detected in the water samples, an advisory is issued to warn beachgoers against entering the water; swimming will then be prohibited until further testing indicates that the problem has been corrected.   Elevated bacterial levels in bathing water cause two types of health problems: skin irritations and gastrointestinal distress from ingesting contaminated water.

In addition to banning swimming when laboratory tests indicate unacceptably high bacteria counts, the Health Department introduced a policy several years ago whereby swimming is automatically prohibited for a minimum of 24 hours following a rainfall that exceeds 1 inch; swimming is prohibited for 48 hours or more following rainfall of 2 inches or greater. This pre-emptive policy is based on actual data collected as part of a study conducted in 2000.  Many coastal towns have similar beach closure policies based on local surveys.

Stratford beachgoers are fortunate because the Town’s public swimming areas are well protected from several factors that typically contribute to contamination of bathing waters. The Town does not have combined sewers, which can lead to a bypass of raw sewage into bathing waters. Moreover, there are very few homes with private subsurface sewage systems in the vicinity of Short Beach or Long Beach so the risk of contamination from a sewage system failure is minimal. The tidal current change also promotes rapid natural cleansing of the waters following extreme rainfall or other conditions that can cause excessive bacterial contamination.

The public may still visit the shoreline and use the beach area for recreation when a swimming advisory is in effect.  People simply cannot enter the water. Signs to this effect are prominently displayed at the entrance to the beach and on social media, and the swimming ban is enforced by the lifeguards.

The Health Department relies on rain gauge readings at the Water Pollution Control Facility to determine the level of rainfall. All plans for swimming advisories are coordinated with the Recreation Department.  The Health Department handles signage at all public beach entrances.

Swimming is permitted following rainfall less than 1 inch so the occurrence of rain alone will not necessarily result in a ban on swimming the following day.   The Health Department responds to inquiries about swimming advisories during the normal Town workday, Monday – Friday. Beach closures are also routinely publicized on the WICC radio station, local news stations, and on the Town of Stratford website ( along with other Stratford Health Department social media platforms.  In addition, the Health Department notifies private beach associations of swimming advisories so they can inform their members of the risk.