Our friends at Peconic Baykeeper are asking the government to start by tackling the biggest and dirtiest septic systems on Long Island. As it stands, Peconic Baykeeper has filed suit against the NYSDEC for failing to include nitrogen limits in permits as required by the Clean Water Act. When presented with Peconic Baykeeper's 200-page petition in September, the NYSDEC came back six months later with a half-page note asking for more information on the 1,338 sites. Given the scale of the problem, we need a much greater sense of urgency if we are to save Long Island.
With over 500,000 septic tanks on Long Island, we have a monumental water quality problem on our hands. With a further 180 local small scale sewage treatment plants on Long Island, the problem gets worse. With antiquated large scale treatment facilities further polluting our bays, chief among them The Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant, crippled by Sandy and spewing millions upon millions of gallons of semi-treated sewage into the Western Bays, we have a disaster of monumental proportions on our hands, yet the issue is vastly under reported, and both the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the EPA are failing to address the issue, refusing, it seems, to enforce the laws already on the books, specifically The Clean Water Act.
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.
*Brown tide emerges in Moriches, Quantuck, and Shinnecock Bay, but not in Great South Bay; Presence of new ocean inlet in Great South Bay may help keep brown tide in check*
Further research via old maps showed that in the 1790's it was referred to as "The New Inlet at South Haven," gaining the name The Old Inlet only after it was closed by two ship wrecks in the 1820s. So what was new is now new again. The bay is renewing itself with the inlet's reopening. Even so, The Army Corps of Engineers continues to press for closure, as to presumably the politicians who continue to ignore science in favor of 'doing something.' It is our hope that this new New Inlet will remain with us, hopefully so long as nature deems it, and will continue to revitalize the Eastern Bay, repairing at least some of the damage we've caused from decades of mismanagement and neglect. We hope that it can buy us enough time to address the many water quality issues on the Long Island mainland that led to the bay's deterioration -- seepage from 100,000+ septic tanks, storm runoff from 2000+ outfall pipes that wash into our streams and into our bays 115 different pesticides, lawn fertilizer, the destruction of marshes and eelgrass beds.
Seas are rising, storms are intensifying. Visit their site, read what they have to say about how we should prepare for this future -- using natural defenses like marsh, eelgrass, shellfish beds. Such natural structures take a lot of the energy out of storms. It also of course has the side benefit of vastly improving the marine and estuarine environment, which is why we want to live by the water in the first place.
All that said, Coastal Resilience' modeling paints a fairly bleak picture of future flooding all along our coasts.
On Facebook: Marine Mead
Prof. Christopher Gobler and his team at SCERP (Stony Brook Southampton Coastal Estuary Research Program) have just released some very interesting data on nitrogen …