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.
As New York continues to recover from Sandy and rebuilds, we are now also faced with a Long Island that is rapidly becoming unlivable due to nitrogenous waste in the ground water, the 117 pesticides in our drinking water, and the pharmaceuticals we throw away or flush down the toilet. The nitrogenous waste is from septic tanks and from lawn fertilizers, from the over 195 small sewage treatment plants scattered across the island, and from antiquated or crippled sewage treatment plants like the one in Bay Park, damaged severely by Sandy.
Start using lawn and agricultural fertilizers that are eco-friendly, that don't pollute our groundwater, drinking water and bays with excess nitrogen and phosphorus. The excess nitrogen has been contributing to brown tide, red tide, rust tide, red tide and blue green algae, and these have been killing our bays and in some cases rendering the water toxic. Click here to see what Nitrogen Free recommends for lawn care as they work to support Save Barnegat Bay. What ever bay we are speaking of, on Long Island or not, the issues are the same -- too much nitrogen in the groundwater from fertilizer and septic seepage leading to algal blooms and dying bays.
Michael Busch of Bellport takes News12 out to The Old Inlet/Breach to show them how much healthier that part of the bay has become since Sandy created it six months ago -- fluke, sea turtles, seal, osprey, clear waters.
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.
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.
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.
DAMAGING BROWN TIDE SPREADS ACROSS GREAT SOUTH BAY
June rains kick starts event; Presence of The New Inlet keeps levels lower in Eastern Bay
Stony Brook, NY, July 8th 2013 – An intense and damaging brown tide has emerged across much of Great South Bay. Monitoring by The Gobler Laboratory of Stony Brook University has revealed that a brown tide developed in late June in western Great South Bay and has intensified and spread east since. Abundances of the brown tide organism were recorded at more than 1,000,000 cells per milliliter in western Great South Bay as of July 2nd in the region between the Robert Moses Bridge and Islip. Densities declined to less than 100,000 cells per milliliter within eastern Great South Bay. Densities above 100,000 cells per milliliter can be harmful to marine life. This marks the first summer brown tide in Great South Bay since 2008.
Save The Great South Bay, a non-profit organization founded in August 2012, , is a local grassroots organization dedicated to the revitalization of the bay.
We want future generations to fish, clam and swim in these waters as we had. We want to restore marine and shoreline habitats so that the South Shore and beach communities that ring the bay can become sustainable for this century.
At present, we are at a moment of crisis. The water quality on Long Island is such that due to septic tank seepage, pesticides, storm runoff, and lawn and agricultural fertilizer, we may not have water to drink, bathe in and cook with before long. As our polluted ground water seeps into our aquifer, it also seeps into our rivers, bays and ponds, and it is killing our bodies of water at an accelerating pace, and the costs of over-development and poor infrastructure mount.
The Long Island Clean Water Coalition, formed by a group of some twenty eco-non-profits and environmental research institutions large and small have come together to to address the water quality crisis now facing Long Island. Our groundwater is polluted, and therefore our drinking water is at peril. Because our ground water is polluted, so are our lakes, streams and bays. Algal blooms wiping out habitats in our bays, shellfish beds closed because of all the nitrogenous waste now in our water. This presentation is by Adrienne Esposito of The Citizen's Campaign for The Environment. It powerfully presents the problem we as Long Islanders face, and what we can do to bring Long Island back from the brink of disaster.