Here is a infographic on the impact of Nitrogen on shellfish.
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.
Fishermen and scientists report cleaner water and more marine life in the Great South Bay since superstorm Sandy blasted a new inlet across Fire Island, the slender land barrier that separates the Long Island bay from the Atlantic Ocean.
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.
SCERP -- The Southampton Coastal and Estuarine Research Project -- has just come out with their latest report. Swimmers Rejoice! Water clarity is now such that we can see deeper than 4 feet in the Eastern Bay, which means it is legal and permissible to swim in the bay once more according to New York State guidelines. In fact, we've gone from 3'4" to 4'6" this year, a 35% increase.
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.
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.