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.
Here is a infographic on the impact of Nitrogen on shellfish.
Here is a map of water quality issues Summer of 2013 on Long Island.
A global expert on algal blooms and nitrogenous waste, Prof. Gobler has been tireless in getting his message out to all Long Islanders and to the country -- we have a very serious problem with polluted ground water, and it is triggering algal blooms -- brown tide, rust tide, red tide, blue-green algae -- and wiping out marine and fresh water habitats. As a part of The Long Island Clean Water Partnership (please sign up and help out!), a group of some 125+ organizations seeking to build a sustainable Long Island, SCERP (The Stony Brook Coastal and Estuarine Research Project) is contributing some of the basic scientific research that is helping us to identify our water problems and to develop the solutions.
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.
Scientists have determined that increasing pollution from sewage, pesticides, and toxic chemicals threatens Long Island’s water. Aging sewer and septic systems leak nitrogen into our underground supply of fresh drinking water, which flows into our creeks, bays, and harbors. This leads to “red tides” and other environmental problems that choke sea life, kill fish, and poison shellfish that people eat.
Fortunately, we can fix it. Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Group for the East End, Long Island Pine Barrens Society, and The Nature Conservancy have been working together for over a year to form the Long Island Clean Water Partnership—a grassroots initiative to restore and protect Long Island’s water resources on a comprehensive level. But action by local, county, and state officials is needed right now if Long Island’s water quality is to be protected and restored for our children and grandchildren. We all have good reason to make sure our water supply is clean and healthy, and we each have a part to play in protecting it for the future.
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).
September 18 2013 – One month after it began in the far western extreme of the Peconic Estuary, the 2013 Rust Tide has spread clear across the entire Peconic Estuary to Gardiners Bay. On August 17th, the Rust Tide emerged in Meetinghouse Creek and western Flanders Bay. Over the next four weeks, it spread through Great Peconic Bay, Little Peconic Bay, Noyak Bay, and Gardiners Bay where is has been spotted during the last week. Bays and harbors with confirmed Rust Tide during this period include, but are certainly not limited to, Reeves Bay, East Creek, North Sea Harbor, Fish Cove, Sag Harbor, Coecles Harbor, Three Mile Harbor, and Northwest Creek.
The rust tide alga, Cochlodinium, has been notorious on Long Island since it first appeared in a decade ago having been responsible for the deaths of both finfish and shellfish. Last fall, bay scallop densities in the Peconic Estuary declined by ten-fold in some regions during the Rust Tide, causing great disappointment among baymen and lovers of this delicacy. Last month, SCERP reported on the role of nitrogen in promoting these events. In the future, we will describe the role of cysts or seeds in the recurrence of these Tides.