The numbers are staggering – 500,000 septic tanks on Long Island. An estimated 2000 outfall pipes pouring runoff into our lakes, streams and bays with each rain. 100+ small dams and spillways blocking the way for ocean fish that would otherwise spawn. Clam harvests in the Great South Bay down well over 90 percent. Scallops in Peconic Bay all but wiped out by rust tide. Fish populations a small fraction of what they were not too long ago.
We of Save The Great South Bay applaud your leadership in helping to shine a light on the major issue threatening all of Long Island's bays, rivers, ponds, its very drinking water, and with that our way of life. With the release of The Comprehensive Water Resources Management Plan, the public at large, the 1.5 million people who live in Suffolk County and the 1.35 million in Nassau County, can begin to understand the collective threat we face from nitrogenous waste in our groundwater.
The public release of the report was truly a watershed moment. It was also a call to action. The now over 1100 members of Save The Great South Bay are ready to do their part to raise awareness about the threats our waters face, and to seek, in partnership with local officials and other environmental non-profits, solutions that would help preserve Long Island as a desirable place to live for our children and grandchildren.
Here is a map of water quality issues Summer of 2013 on Long Island.
Anything in red, orange or yellow on this map is a dead zone
We frankly have no choice but to address this issue, if not for our waters, for our drinking water. We are living right on top of it. The same thing that is polluting and killing our bays -- the waste water, the pesticides ( 117 of them ), the pharmaceuticals we throw out bu tend up in our ground water, the toxic plumes from Superfund clean up sites, and from household hazardous waste like cleaners, paints, and heavy metals -- is also threatening our drinking water as the polluted water above seeps down into our aquifers and literally poisons our wells.
September 30th 2013 – Last week, two freshwater bodies on Long Island were added to NYSDEC comprehensive inventory of state water bodies with blue green algal blooms: Deep Pond in Wading River and Maratooka Lake in Mattituck. Blue algae are of concern as they can synthesize toxins that can sicken humans and can be lethal to pets and other animals. Following World Health Organization standards, Maratooka Lake had levels of the toxin, microcystin, exceeding a moderate recreational risk, prompting NYSDEC to list the lake as ‘CONFIRMED WITH HIGH TOXINS’ and prompting Suffolk County Department of Health Services to post signs warning the public around the lake. These two water bodies join Mill Pond and Lake Agawam which have been on the NYSDEC list weekly since June.
Long Island environmental groups are banding together to stem the flow of nitrogen into the region’s groundwater and bays.
The initiative announced Tuesday follows what environmentalists are calling the worst year on record for ecological problems related to nitrogen, a nutrient that feeds algal blooms blamed for devastating much of the island’s marine life over the last three decades.
August 27th 2013 – Last week, Rust tides caused by the dinoflagellate, Cochlodinium, emerged on eastern Long Island and have since spread east through the Peconic Estuary and Shinnecock Bay. A recent study performed more than two dozen experiments over a four year period in five different Long Island estuaries and found that the loading of nitrogen during significantly increased the growth of Cochlodinium relative to other phytoplankton groups, demonstrating that nitrogen promotes rust tides (1; see figure). In south shore bays, the primary source of nitrogen is septic tanks (2). Recent investigations of the Peconic Estuary found that septic tanks, cesspools, and fertilizers were all important nitrogen sources (3).
This series -- which runs from Monday the 23rd of September to Friday the 27th with a one hour live special Thursday the 26th 7-8 -- is an admirable effort on the part of News12 and its President Pat Dolan, as well as all the scientists within The Long Island Clean Water Partnership and others to bring to light the challenges we face collectively as Long Islanders when it comes to assuring our water quality and our way of life for future generations. The problems are immense, but the solutions are there, if we decide, together on this island we call home, to take action. Our children and grandchild should also fish, swim, clam, and sail as we had, and Long Island should remain a place where people raise their families knowing the water is safe to drink and the environment is a healthy one. News12 understands the urgency, as does the 125+ organizations that make up The Long Island Partnership for Clean Water.
The outbreak of the brown tide caused by Aureococcus in Great South Bay during late June and early July came as a surprise to citizens and scientists alike as it ended nearly eight months of what some had deemed “gin-clear” water facilitated in part by the new ocean inlet created by Hurricane Sandy. An analysis of environmental data (see accompanying graphic; salinity and chlorophyll data courtesy of Dr. C. Flagg) during June provides some clear signs as to the cause of this brown tide.
Knowing now the task at hand, we have no choice but to take it on. To say this problem is too big is to say Long Island has no future. Without clean water, we have no bays, rivers, and ponds worth having. Without clean water, what do we drink, bathe in, or wash with? In the end, it is up to us to act responsibly on the conclusions of SCERP's research. The very first step we can take in that is to make sure everyone on Long Island is familiar with their work and their conclusions. Tell your family, friends, neighbors, coworkers. We must move from knowledge to awareness to action if we are to preserve Long Island and its waters for future generations. Make no mistake - this problem will cost billions to fix. Eco friendly septic tanks and toilets would need to be deployed throughout Nassau and Suffolk. Sewage treatment plants would need to be modernized and rebuilt. With the total value of Long Island real estate easily in the hundreds of billions of dollars, one would think the infrastructure investment would be worth it.
Here's a nice piece on Prof. Christopher Gobler of Stonybrook's School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS). You want to know about toxic algal blooms, what they are doing to the marine plants and animals in our ponds and bays, and what we can do to combat them, he's the expert. His lectures, which we hope to post here as well soon, are very accessible, yet highly sophisticated.