What's in the Water: Burden on the Bays

Nitrogen is seeping into Long Island's waterways by way of septic tanks and cesspools, and it's bad news for fish and the fishermen who rely

Experts say that even homes miles from the shore are passing pollution that makes its way into the bays.

Experts say that even homes miles from the shore are passing pollution that makes its way into the bays. (9/25/13)

SOUTHAMPTON - Nitrogen is seeping into Long Island's waterways by way of septic tanks and cesspools, and it's bad news for fish and the fishermen who rely on them to make a living.

When too much nitrogen gets into bays and streams, it feeds an explosion of algae that suck oxygen from the water. That triggers brown and red tides, which kill shellfish and drive other types of fish from the area.

At Stony Brook University's School of Marine Scienes, Dr. Chris Gobler has been studying the effects of nitrogen on marine life and how it gets into the bays. Some of the nitrogen comes from fertilizers and public sewage treatment plants, but Gobler says 70 percent is from private cesspools and septic tanks.

It's not just waterfront homes that are sending nitrogen into the seas. Experts say that even homes miles from the shore are passing pollution that makes its way into the bays, moving at a few feet per day.

State health limits on nitrogen are designed to protect drinking water, but they're not strict enough to protect Long Island's streams and bays. Environmentalists are calling for big changes.

Peconic Baykeeper Kevin McAllister says a big part of the solution could be high-tech home septic systems that strip away excess nitrogen. Many environmentalists are calling for regulations that require the systems to be a part of new construction projects.

For many Long Islanders who make their living from the fish and shellfish in the bays, the changes cannot come soon enough.

Contact the decision-makers: 

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
http://www.dec.ny.gov/regulations/32692.html

New York State Department of Health
http://www.health.ny.gov/professionals/doctors/conduct/contact.htm
Email: opmc@health.state.ny.us

Nassau County Health Department
http://www.nassaucountyny.gov/agencies/Health/contact.html

Suffolk County Health Department
scdhsweb@suffolkcountyny.gov

State Sen. Mark Grisanti
Chairman, Senate Environmental Conservation Committee
http://www.nysenate.gov/senator/mark-grisanti/contact
Email: grisanti@nysenate.gov

Assemblyman Robert Sweeney
Chairman, Committee on Environmental Conservation
Contact: assembly.state.ny.us/mem/Robert-K-Sweeney/contact/

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo
http://www.governor.ny.gov/contact/GovernorContactForm.php

Numbers and Links:

Peconic Baykeeper
http://www.peconicbaykeeper.org/

Save the Great South Bay
http://savethegreatsouthbay.org/

Friends of the Bay
http://friendsofthebay.org/

Long Island Clean Water Partnership
http://longislandcleanwaterpartnership.org/

Group for the East End
http://www.groupfortheeastend.org/what-we-do/advocacy/clean-water-action/

More on this topic

advertisement | advertise on News 12

Trending Video

This morning's high tide expected to bring coastal 1 Rising tides cause street flooding this morning
Heavy rain overnight expected to cause erosion at 2 Erosion expected at south shore beaches after heavy rain
News 12's Elisa DiStefano tastes the delicious peanut 3 National Peanut Butter Day: Recipes
4 Former LuHi star signs with Hofstra basketball
News 12 Long Island's Talia Kaplan was on 5 Rising tides cause street flooding in South Shore neighborhoods

advertisement | advertise on News 12

More News

Sorry to interrupt...

Your first 5 are free

Access to News12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Time Warner® and Service Electric℠ video customers.

Please enjoy 5 complimentary views to articles, photos, and videos during the next 30 days.

LOGIN SUBSCRIBE