The ecological condition of Long Island’s ground water has reached a crisis point. Year by year the algal blooms grow more intense and pervasive, with brown tides erasing more habitats, with contaminated waters closing more and more acres to shellfishing, and with more and more beaches closed to swimming for longer and longer periods.
With yet another good soaking rain, STGSB fearlessly predicts that the 19 Nassau County beaches closed once more from the heavy rains last week will remain closed yet another week, to at least next Friday, because the load of ground water contaminated with septic tank waters, with outflow from the crippled Bay Park sewage treatment plant, and from pollution from other storm runoff.
We Long Islanders atop an aquifer. The water we are now drinking was stored there 10,000 years ago when the glaciers melted. It is what we drink with, what we cook with, what we bathe within. Pollution from above has already seeped through the two top aquifers, contaminating them. There’s just one left now, and given how we have thoroughly ignored and discounted this problem, it seems now only a matter of time before LI’s water is unfit for cooking, drinking, or bathing. Allow a population to explode 4X over 50 years, to the point where Long Island (Nassau, Suffolk) is about as densely populated as Bangladesh, the fourth most populated country in the world. Throw in an extensive system of roads with thousands of outfall pipes pouring polluted waters into our streams. Fail to build the necessary sewage infrastructure. That all equates to environmental collapse. All our ponds, rivers, bays on the way to becoming lifeless. What then? Aside from remaining a short commute to NYC, what would Long Island have to recommend then?
Fortunately, even as we can diagnose the ecological problems we face — toxicity in our waters from septic tanks and nitrogenous waste, 115 pesticides poisoning these waters, 2000 outfall pipes, lawn and agricultural fertilizers — we yet have the means to revitalize our waters and build a Long Island that is sustainable for generations to come. We just need people to know what is killing our waters and then agree collectively to stop. No lawn fertilizers, no commercial fertilizers that can trigger algal blooms, no pesticides, deploying a green ecofriendly solution to the septic tank. Not only can this be done, it must, and while there is still time. Habitats and species can recover, but only if there is enough left to even work with. Humanity and Long Island are both now racing the clock. What we see here is being replicated in hundreds of places throughout the globe. Everyone needs to fix their back yards while they still can.
Just yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg announced a $20 bil initiative whereby NYC would be defended against climate change / flooding / higher sea levels over the next 50 years. His solution stops at The Nassau County line. What’s our plan?