Posted at: 08/10/2009 10:23 PM | WHEC.com
Updated at: 08/11/2009 8:07 AM
By: Nikki Rudd

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"Smart Sponge" clean-up for Durand Eastman Beach

Durand Eastman BeachThe City of Rochester has been trying to clean up Durand Eastman Beach for years. Now the city is planning to spend $972,000 to make it happen, and they plan to do it with a sponge!

The new technology called is Smart Sponge by AbTech Industries. News 10NBC took the idea to the beach. We found the Diaz family at Durand Eastman Beach Monday.
They were there to beat the heat.

"Cause it was so hot!" said Crystal Diaz of Rochester. "It was horrible. It was unbearable."

But while the water looks wonderful on a steamy summer day many times it's actually full of bacteria. The beach was closed on Monday, making it the 30th day out of the swimming season so far this year that the beach was closed. The closure didn't keep the Diaz family from taking a dip.

"As you see every body's going to go in whether they tell them or not," said Diaz.

The Monroe County Health Department (MCHD) has been waiting for the city to do something to clean up Durand-Eastman Beach. Since 2006, the MCHD has been signing temporary waivers for the city to open the beach to the public.

Basically, the city is required by State Public Health laws to correct the bacteria problem and get a bathhouse on the beach. At one point the city considered diverting the creeks and streams that pollute the water but that was too expensive.  

The Smart Sponge project would cost $1.7 million, but the city got a federal grant to pay for $728,000 of it. The Smart Sponge looks like styrofoam and is already used in communities in California and Connecticut. It's able to absorb pollutants and bacteria from the water before it flows onto the beach from streams and creeks.

At Durand Eastman, the Smart Sponge would go in an underground vault and would soak up bacteria before it gets to the beach. The city plans to install a Smart Sponge at Durand Eastman Beach next spring. City officials estimate the annual maintenance cost will be about $30,000.

"Very good idea!" said Ahmet Zenelovic. "That's a great idea!" Zenelovic and his wife Heidi walk along this beach every week.

"A lot of people come on this beach," said Heidi. "It's like a neighborhood beach and that will be a good idea."

Crystal Diaz says it's about time the city does something about the bacteria problem.
"Cause everybody swims in it," said Diaz. "Love to be in it. If the city can make it better than that would be great."

City officials said the Smart Sponge won't be 100% effective but should help remove bacteria on a day to day basis. The bathhouse is phase two for the city.

So far, the city has a $300,000 state grant to do the site prep and underground utilities but no money yet for that actual bathhouse construction.

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