SCERP — The Southampton Coastal and Estuarine Research Program — has posted this dramatic picture of how the massive brown tide bloom in The Great South Bay is not spreading to the south eastern part of the bay, thanks to The New Inlet:
Note how this photograph accords with their graphic on cell counts in the bay — where The New Inlet has influence The Great South Bay has largely escaped the brown tide bloom.
The brown tide bloom in The Great South Bay is massive and its results will be devastating. The New Inlet will mitigate the damage somewhat — we should be happy it wasn’t closed after Sandy! — but the real problem continues to be the 500,000 septic tanks in Nassau and Suffolk. Scientists are now speculating that the Babylon area was hit hard by this brown tide because the flow of polluted groundwater running into the bay was greatest there. While some of Babylon is on sewers, much of Babylon isn’t. After an historically wet June — we had twice the rain we usually did — the ground water, now supersaturated, flowed towards the bay, drawing septic tank water with it. Babylon’s rivers and streams contribute 30% of the ground water pollution into the bay, as measured by nitrogen content, as it is. A month of flooding rains, predictably, exacerbated the problem.
The real question here for Long Islanders is this — what would it take to neutralize the effects of 500,000 septic tanks on our waters? Since we also depend on the water below us for drinking, cooking, and bathing, what are we prepared to do to address what is turning into an environmental crisis and a water resource crisis? Human beings can’t have too much nitrogen in their water. The standard is 10 parts per million. At the current rate of groundwater pollution, some believe we are due to hit that number by 2030. How much septic tank seepage is already in the ‘pipeline,’ making its way through the aquifer, feet by feet, year by year? How many more summers of brown and red tides can our waters stand in the meanwhile?
Make no mistake about it — this brown tide signals a major problem for Long Island’s long term health and viability, and a bold large scale plan is needed now.