Science | August 22, 2020 3:40 pm

A Storied New York City Beach is Now Radioactive

Worrying news from Dead Horse Bay

Dead Horse Bay
Beloved beach, dangerous conditions.
Rhododendrites/Creative Commons

Besides the pandemic, 2020 has also involved other harrowing events in the natural world, including wildfires, hurricanes and a fire tornado. If you’re checking off spaces on an apocalypse-themed bingo card, there’s plenty of alarming news out there. But if you’re looking to relax, there’s always a day at the beach, which has the benefit of being one of the safer recreational options during the pandemic, relatively speaking.

That said, if you’ve been thinking of visiting Dead Horse Bay in New York, you might want to put those plans on hold for a little bit. This has nothing to do with the coronavirus; instead, parts of the beach have turned radioactive.

The news comes from Jessica Leigh Hester at Atlas Obscura. As Hester notes. Dead Horse Bay is known for the items that have washed ashore, including numerous glass bottles and other lost treasures. They’ve caught the eyes of visitors and have sparked work from writers and artists. And it’s now off-limits, because radiation.

The restrictions stem from the discovery last year that parts of the beach had been contaminated with radium. Based on the report, 84 acres are currently affected; Dead Horse Bay has a total of 178. And while the experts that Hester spoke to for the article are divided on how serious a danger the radiation poses, they also point to another potential issue: chemical contamination taking place underground.

One other concern shared in the article: that the degrading 1950s landfill that’s the source of the items that have washed ashore could be a casualty of the cleanup efforts. Might this alter a piece of New York forever? Time and expert opinions will tell.

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