Dr. Chris Gobler, of Stony Brook University's Gobler Laboratory, met with Citizens Campaign for the Environment and the Nature Conservancy earlier today at Mascot Dock in Patchogue Village to debrief the current Long Island water quality.
According to Gobler, this summer has reflected some of the worst fish kills, harmful algal blooms, and water quality impairments on record. He attributes the decline due to nitrogen pollution from dated sewers and septic systems.
Gobler takes weekly water testing surveys from across Long Island, every week, reporting on the water quality from a total of 30 locations from Montauk to the Queens border. In addition to the testing, his team also has placed sensors at these locations to monitor the oxygen levels and temperatures. He called the press conference this week due to the “troubling results” from the past two weeks.
“In over a decade, we have now hit an all-time low in water quality on Long Island,” Gobler said noting that of the over 30 locations monitored, only six ranked ‘good,’ and of those only one location met all state and federal guidelines. That location, he said, was the Shinnecock Bay location, which is directly ocean-facing. “All of these outcomes have very important consequences for our ecosystems.”
The report, he said, also reflects a clear difference between areas where on-site wastewater is being treated and where areas (namely the south shore of Suffolk County) where antiquate systems are still largely in use creating “dead zones” with low to almost zero oxygen levels.
“Marine life cannot persist without oxygen,” said Gobler.
The one thing residents can do right now to help reverse the trends, he explained, is to stem the flow of nitrogen from land to sea.
“It’s within our powers,” he said.
A big part of the solution, Kevin McDonald of the Nature Conservancy explained, is by establishing a funding stream in Suffolk County, which has 360,000 polluting septics and cesspools, to implement sewer expansion projects and fund septic upgrades.
“We have this remarkable moment in time, it’s the first time in 50 years the federal government said we want to invest, we have the state of New York, the last few years, saying water quality is important and we want to invest,” he said of the support of the government. “We need the Suffolk County Legislature to move this bill and allow the voters of Suffolk County to do their will this November. Let the voters decide!”
Adrienne Esposito, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, also spoke.
“Our water quality is getting worse; this is a tragedy. We know the problem is nitrogen. Nitrogen is like a thief that has invaded our community, set up residence, and continues to degrade our quality of life and hold hostage our future,” she said. “Yet the county legislature has turned their back on the solution.”
The Suffolk Legislature will decide on Tuesday, July 25 if they will allow the public to vote on clean water in a ballot referendum in November to fund these solutions.
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