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For Immediate Release:
December 21, 2016
Contact: 518-486-9846
press@dos.ny.gov
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New York Department of State Releases
Long Island South Shore Estuary Reserve Eastern Bays Report

Report Identifies Sources of Nitrogen Loading and Other Pollution in Waters of
Long Island South Shore Estuary Reserve

Serves as Tool for Counties and Advocates to Improve Environmental Health of Long Island’s South Shore Estuary

The New York Department of State today released the Long Island South Shore Estuary Reserve (Reserve) water quality report, which identifies sources of pollution in the Eastern Bays of the Reserve and takes a closer look at ways to improving its environmental health. The report used widely accepted methods to estimate nitrogen sources in the water and provides a series of recommended steps to better understand and manage nitrogen loads from land to surface into the Bays of Long Island’s South Shore.

The “Long Island South Shore Estuary Reserve Eastern Bays Project: Nitrogen Loading, Sources, and Management Options” report was completed in cooperation with Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and is an important step in estimating the amount of nitrogen that causes water degradation to the South Shore of Long Island. 

“The health of the water of the South Shore Estuary is the cornerstone of the region’s economy,” said New York Secretary of the State Rossana Rosado, who is also the Chair of the Estuary Reserve Council. “Thanks to this report, we will be able to advance our knowledge and understanding of the water quality challenges our South Shore communities face today and help local communities decide on the best options to reduce nitrogen loading to the estuary.”  

Improving our understanding of nitrogen loading sources and developing management options in the Eastern Bays can help focus limited resources and prioritize the watersheds where efforts to improve water quality can have the greatest impact. The report supports the Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan, already underway by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), Suffolk County, Nassau County and the Long Island Regional Planning Council and helps advance the Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan. 

“Nitrogen is the priority issue in the Long Island South Shore Estuary Reserve and DEC is looking forward to using this report as part of the Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “The Department of State is an important ally in the work being done to reduce nitrogen levels and improve water quality on Long Island.”

“The state of our water quality is an extremely important matter that we have taken very seriously in Suffolk County during my administration,” stated Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.  “Not only do we drink the water that is beneath our feet, but our water is a significant factor that continues to affect our local economy, tourism, environment and overall quality of life in Suffolk County. Last year, the Suffolk County Comprehensive Water Resources Management Plan identified nitrogen as one of the leading culprits to the decline of our water and provided critical recommendations as how to best manage and protect the region’s water supply.  We will continue to work Governor Cuomo, New York State and our community leaders and experts to fully turn the tide and reclaim our water.”

"As Suffolk County navigates through the Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan, this study should provide the basis for taking concrete, data-based managerial steps to improve water quality within the eastern extent of the South Shore Estuary Reserve," said Dr. Christopher Gobler of the Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences.

“Once again science confirms wastewater from on-site septics and cesspools to be the major contributor to poor water quality in our bays,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director, Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “This is more cutting edge science that identifies the imperative need for county, state, and local planning process to battle nitrogen, construct sewers around the Forge River, and establish a perpetual funding mechanism to pay for the solutions. This problem will not solve itself and will only get worse by inaction.  We look forward to continuing to work with our government leaders in addressing nitrogen pollution and restoring our beaches, harbors and bays.”

The nitrogen sources identified in the report result from stormwater runoff, drainage or seepage- including seepage from the septic systems and cesspools. Other sources also include failing or inadequate on-site wastewater treatment systems discharging to the bays. 
Excess nitrogen in the Eastern Bays has led to an increase in algal blooms, a reduction in seagrass beds that provide habitat for shellfish and finfish and a host of other water quality impairments.  The nitrogen pollution has also contributed to the decline of shellfish and commercial fishing on Long Island.

Management options identified in the report, including the refinement of nitrogen loading models to better identify study areas, the harvesting of seaweed for nitrogen removal, and the planting of hard clams and eastern oysters will contribute to implementation of the Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan, and help Suffolk County efforts to identify suitable locations for innovative on-site wastewater treatment systems to reduce the amount of Nitrogen reaching the South Shore bays.  State and local officials have been working to address the water quality concerns that impact not only the Eastern Bays of the Long Island South Shore Estuary Reserve, but the whole of Long Island.

The report is available online here.

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