Water Quality Concerns on Long Island

In 1994, the Long Island Sound Study found that roughly 53,700 tons of nitrogen were entering Long Island Sound annually as a result of development patterns – the majority of which is from sewage.  While groundwater with nitrogen concentrations above 10 mg/Liter is toxic to humans, coastal ecosystems are far more sensitive to nitrogen.  American Analytical is working with a manufacturer involved in the Suffolk County Advanced Septic Pilot program and will sample and test effluents from various waste water treatment systems installed throughout the County.  The system uses an extended aeration activated sludge process in which microorganisms treat the waste water, and remain in the treatment process for a longer period of time, thereby reducing nitrogen up to 80%.

Nitrogen impacts Long Island’s coastal marshlands, causes harmful algal blooms (HABs) including Red and Brown Tide, and weakens and destabilizes the natural infrastructure in place to protect Long Island against erosion and storms.  From 1974 to 2001, there was an 18 to 36 percent loss in tidal wetlands in the Great South Bay as a result of factors including excess nitrogen entering the watershed.  As part of ongoing efforts to bolster New York’s coastal resiliency, Governor Cuomo, NYSDEC and other state agencies are working to address longstanding waste water issues to protect Long Island’s sole source aquifer.  These waters contribute  to the 43 local farmers markets on Long Island, bring in over $4.7 billion in tourism industry, $240 million in agricultural sales, and water over 35,975 acres of farmland.

“There’s nothing more important to the sustainability and livability for Long Island than clean water, ” said Adriennne Esposito of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

Suffok County Wetlands

Did you know…

In 1987, Long Island Sound became part of the National Estuary Program, a program established by Congress to protect and improve the waters, habitats, and living resources of estuaries across the country.  There are 28 estuaries that are supported by this program.

An estuary is a partially enclosed coastal body of water where freshwater from rivers and streams mixes with salt water from the ocean.  It creates critical natural habitats for thousands of species of birds, mammals and fish, as well as other wildlife.  Estuaries also provide environmental protection for wetlands and salt marshes, filtering out much of the sediments and pollutants, creating cleaner and clearer water, as well as preventing erosion and stabilizing shorelines.