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Why Long Island Beaches Are Closing

Storm water runoff, HABs, nitrogen, and other impacts

As a coastal community, Long Island towns rely on clean water to support healthy ecosystems, tourism, fisheries industries, and for drinking water. Contamination comes in many forms and can have lasting effects that greatly impact the health of our bays, harbors, and creeks. Just recently, six Suffolk County beaches have been closed to bathing due to high levels of bacteria that have contaminated the water. Sources include storm water run-off, old and leaky septic systems, sewage spills, debris, and more. Swimming in contaminated waters like this can lead to gastrointestinal illness and infections in the eyes, ears, nose, and throat. 

Another cause for beach and shellfish bed closures on Long Island are harmful algal blooms (HABs), which are a leading factor to red tide. HABs are a result of algae growing out of control and leading to toxic and harmful effects on people, pets, fish, shellfish, marine mammals, and birds. These blooms have been linked to nitrogen pollution and have led to these contaminated waterbodies along our own coasts every summer. Sadly, this problem is not unique to Long Island.

Florida’s southwestern coast is experiencing one of the longest ongoing red tides since 2006, resulting in wildlife deaths and noxious beaches. In these areas, red tides have also impacted local water-based tourism businesses that have had to temporarily shut down as operations would be unsafe for customers. If we do nothing, Long Island has the potential to suffer from similar consequences.

Recently, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone pledged $237,000 in county funding for storm water mitigation projects in the Village of Greenport. In a 50/50 match, the Village will fix drainage on four road-ends, reducing the amount of storm water pollution runoff discharged into Greenport Harbor and Shelter Island Sound. This is one example of a proactive measure that can help mitigate some of the concerns Long Island’s water faces.

You can make a difference in protecting Long Island’s water. Don’t add to the nitrogen pollution problem. Use non-toxic and green fertilizers on your lawn. Upgrade and maintain your septic system. Don’t flush medications or dump chemicals down the drain. Join the Long Island Clean Water Partnership today!

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Understanding the Bethpage Plume

     If there is one thing that people associate with Long Island, besides our waterways, it is our role as the “Cradle of Aviation”.  In Bethpage, both of these characteristically Long Island features have converged in the increasingly concerning form of the “Bethpage Plume”.  Though the water problems in Bethpage are frequently discussed in the media, there may be some question over what exactly a “plume”, a body of polluted groundwater, is and how concerned residents should be over the contamination of water in Bethpage.  While these questions are easily answered, it is important to first take a look at the history of the impacted area in Bethpage to understand the problems that we face today.

    The site of today’s Bethpage Plume began as a manufacturing facility for the United States Navy and Grumman Aerospace Corporation in the 1930’s. Throughout the operation of the site, Grumman and the U.S. Navy produced thousands of planes for World War II and the Korean War as well as the Lunar Module which brought humans to the moon. Through these intense land uses, however, the site of the Grumman/Navy facility quickly became contaminated with pollutants and by the 1970s, volatile organic compounds had been discovered in the area’s water supply. By 1983, the contamination had become so significant that New York State added the site to the official list of hazardous waste superfund sites.

     Today, the groundwater plume from the Bethpage facility spans 1.8 miles wide, 3.7 miles long and up to 800 feet deep. Contaminants that have been found or suspected in Bethpage’s water supply have included the carcinogen trichloroethylene, 1,4-dioxane, radium and nearly two dozen other toxic contaminants. Much of the concern surrounding this plume is the continuing movement of the contaminated water towards Long Island’s South Shore and Atlantic Ocean. In fact, it is estimated that the plume moves approximately one foot to the Southeast each day. If the problem is not alleviated by 2037, experts predict that more than 100,000 customers of the surrounding area could see their water supply endangered by the plume’s contaminants. In response, this year state officials have called for the closing and replacement of five of Bethpage Water District’s nine wells to try to fight against the spread of the plume.

     Despite these dire circumstances, however, hope still exists that the Bethpage plume can be contained through aggressive mitigative action. In December of last year, the Cuomo Administration announced the details of a $150 million action plan to clean up the plume, which includes the construction of fourteen new remediation wells across the Bethpage community. These wells will pump and treat millions of gallons of water each day. The State Department of Environmental Conservation has also undergone the process of drafting a feasibility study on how to contain the existing plume and prevent it from expanding into other communities on Long Island. These are good first steps that must be built upon in order to restore a safe environment and clean drinking water for the residents of the Bethpage Water District. Above all, the history of the Bethpage groundwater plume is a sobering reminder of the negative consequences that living on top of the water that we drink can have if we do not take wise land use decisions into consideration and dedicate ourselves to the stewardship of our aquifers.

     Join the Long Island Clean Water Partnership today to stay abreast of important updates on the effort to restore our water quality and to learn about how you can contribute to protecting the island’s delicate aquifers. 

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Make a Short Film; Win a Cash Prize

Create a PSA on the Importance of Protecting Long Island’s Water for the Reclaim our Water Film Contest.

Get creative, help protect Long Island’s water, and take a shot at winning a cash prize! Suffolk County has launched the Reclaim Our Water Film Contest and is looking for New York State residents to create a short video or public service announcement on the importance of improving Long Island’s water quality. The videos, which should be between 15 seconds and 1 minute, will be judged by an expert panel on the basis of creativity and originality, quality, technical accuracy, and content of the message.  This is a great opportunity to highlight an important issue facing Long Island’s water resources and show off your skills at video production.

Submissions are due by 5pm on August 27th. The winning shorts will be screened at an awards ceremony at the Long Island Maritime Museum on Saturday, September 15th to coincide with the kickoff of National SepticSmart Week.  The winners will receive cash prizes of:

  • 1st place: $2,000
  • 2nd place: $1,000
  • 3rd place: $500

Learn more about Reclaim our Waters Film Contest and download an entry form here.  If you are looking for some inspiration, check out a video from past contest winners.

 

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Contamination of Our Sole Source Aquifer

A prime example of drinking water at risk

Founding members of the Long Island Clean Water Partnership are taking the government to task to protect our water. The Suffolk County Health Department released a final assessment of its 2017 test-well sampling program and confirmed Wainscott Sand and Gravel’s controversial Sand Land property operations had significantly contaminated the area’s underlying groundwater aquifer. Among a variety of contaminants identified, results show iron levels found in test wells are 200 times greater than the drinking water standard and manganese are 100 times greater than the drinking water standard. Testing also revealed other heavy metals, nitrates and even radioactivity at levels above drinking water standards. This is a prime example of how contamination on the surface can pollute the groundwater which on Long Island is our only source of fresh drinking water. 

On the East End, the South Fork’s largely forested “highlands” provide the greatest opportunity for precipitation to make its way deep into our underground water supply, in geologic formations known as aquifers. Unfortunately, when industrial operations are permitted in such areas, as is the case with the Sand Land mine, the likelihood of contamination is significant and can threaten the deepest and most important part of the aquifer. At a recent press conference organized by local civic and environmental groups to address the County report, Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said that despite what the Town has been doing to protect critical resources, the battle to protect its waters has been lost in some respects. Suffolk County Assemblyman Fred Thiele pointed out that public health is at risk and it is time to stop the pollution that led to this contamination. Suffolk County Legislator Bridget reminded those in attendance that the only supply of drinking water we have is right beneath our feet. 

So, what now?

Group for the East End and Citizens Campaign for the Environment are working with local municipalities, the community, and environmentalists on a unified action plan to protect Long Island water.

Key Action Plan Steps:
1. The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) should deny the Sand Land mine’s upcoming mining permit renewal 

2. The NYSDEC should immediately deny the facility's proposed expansion plans 

3. All vegetative waste and related processing operations at the Sand Land site should be removed from the site

4. Governor Cuomo must be engaged to make sure the NYSDEC does its job, closes this facility and protects our water

5. The Town should aggressively enforce its own local regulations to keep waste materials of any type off the site
 
You can help! Stand up for clean drinking water and public health by joining the Long Island Clean Water Partnership today!

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Long Island's Water & Economy

If you live on Long Island, you know it’s all about the water! From beaches and boating, and fresh local seafood, to the crystal clear water that lies beneath our Pine Barrens – water defines life on Long Island. Not only does Long Island’s water play an important role in our personal lives, setting the stage for some of our most favorite memories, it also is a driving force of our economy. In fact, a 2013 study by the University of Connecticut and supported by the Nature Conservancy, determined that nearly half of Long Island’s gross metropolitan product - $153 billion – comes from businesses that are water-reliant.

This means that Long Island’s livelihood depends on a fresh supply of drinking water and clean bays, beaches & harbors.

Loss of Industry
Our decline in water quality has significant commercial impacts. Excess nitrogen in our waters has lead to the proliferation of harmful algae, compromising a once dominant commercial fishing and shellfish industry. Until the 1970s, nearly half of the clams eaten in the United States came from the Great South Bay. Today, that number is now less than 1%.

Tourism
Beach closures due to harmful algae blooms or thousands of dead fish washing up on our shores can also result in a decline in visitors and a major loss in tourism dollars.

Real Estate Values
A Stony Brook University study found that home water quality affects real estate values, and not just on the shore. A one-foot increase in water clarity is associated with a 2-4% increase in home price as far inland as 1,000 meters. The clearer the water, the higher the property values.

Business
Many Long Island businesses also rely on a fresh supply of clean drinking water. Hospitals, for example, need a large supply of clean water to treat patients (e.g., dialysis), clean rooms and prepare meals. As water quality decreases, the costs increase for water providers to treat our water to conform to federal standards. As costs continue to increase, this expense will be passed onto the customer.

These are just some of the many examples that show the vital connection between Long Island’s water quality and its economy. Investments in clean water help protect our jobs, businesses, public services, and quality of life. Such investments will also help boost our economy – higher property values, increased recreation opportunities, greater shellfish productivity and business expansion opportunities.

We cannot let this trend continue. Now is the time to act. The worse our water quality problems get, the more complicated and expensive the solutions will be.

Join the Long Island Clean Water Partnership today to stay up to date on important updates on the effort to restore our water quality.

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Blog post adapted from: “The Dollars and Sense of Investing in Clean Water” by The Nature Conservancy

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Identifying Algal Blooms

Long Island waters continue to be at risk

Harmful algal blooms are becoming all too common in our waters. Just this weekend, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced four new waterbodies to their Harmful Algal Blooms Notification Page, bringing the State-wide total to 18. Five of these are located in Suffolk County, which has the highest number of sites than any other affected county. 

But what is a harmful algal bloom? Also known as HABs, these occur when colonies of saltwater and freshwater algae grow out of control while producing toxic and harmful effects on people, pets, fish, shellfish, marine mammals, and birds. Learn more about this on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Ocean Service page here.

Not all algal blooms are the same. Marine algal blooms such as red tide and brown tides have plagued Long Island waters, leading to shellfish bed and beach closures, and they are getting worse. In many cases, HABs can make shellfish unsafe to eat and pose a threat to Long Island’s valuable shellfish industry. HABs can also threaten our region’s vast recreational opportunities associated with our Long Island way of life. In fact, Northport Harbor and Huntington Harbor are currently closed to the harvest of some types of shellfish by the DEC due to the presence of HABs. These particular blooms are also the type that make it dangerous for humans and pets to go swimming. 

Here are some things you need to know:

If you see a suspicious waterbody that is an unusual color with blue-green algae, report it to the DEC as it may be an algal bloom
Avoid contact with discolored water and water that has algae scums on the surface 
Never drink untreated surface water, whether or not an algae bloom is present
Home treatments such as boiling or disinfecting water does not protect people from harmful algal bloom toxins

Harmful algal blooms have been linked to nitrogen pollution, one of the biggest threats facing Long Island waters. You can stand up for clean water and the health of our bays, harbors, and creeks by joining the Long Island Clean Water Partnership today!

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Vehicle for State’s Support of Water Quality Improvements Celebrates 25 Years

New York Environmental Protection Fund Celebrates 25 Years

     All politics may be local, but when it comes to protecting the drinking and surface waters around us; an “all-hands on deck” approach must be taken. For the State of New York, this participation primarily manifests itself in the New York Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. With such a milestone to commemorate, it’s a good idea to familiarize oneself with the history and significance of the EPF.

     Initially passed by the New York State Legislature in 1993 for open space and water preservation, the EPF has gone on to be one of the largest funding sources for water protection throughout the state. Through its “Water Quality Improvement Program” alone, more than $80 million has been committed to water infrastructure projects and non-point source abatement projects.

     For the region of Long Island, specifically, the Environmental Protection Fund provides funds that play a part in protecting the Long Island Sound, the Great South Bay and countless inland waterbodies, including the water underlying the Long Island Pine Barrens. Perhaps most important among these efforts is the program known as the Long Island South Shore Estuary Reserve Program. The reserve program, which encompasses approximately 173 square miles of bays along the southern coastline of Long Island, has received more than $11 million from the EPF since 1993. In 2017 alone, more than $650,000 from the protection fund was committed to fund 16 projects within the region of the South Shore reserve, in addition to its annual funding. A large portion of these funds are dedicated to reducing non-point source pollution within the area’s waterbodies.

     In 2018, the Environmental Protection Fund continues to be well-supported, with the 2018-2019 New York State Budget once again allocating a historic $300 million to the fund. For each of the past two years, Long Island alone has received more than $17 million for water quality protection, including $3 million for Suffolk County and Stony Brook University to develop advanced septic technologies that will reduce the levels of nitrogen pollution in Long Island’s waterbodies.

     Twenty-five years later, it is safe to say that the State Environmental Protection Fund has been a leading presence in the statewide effort to safeguard New York’s environment for the future. For Long Island’s water quality, the Environmental Protection Fund represents one of the single greatest sources of support for preserving the resource that every Long Islander depends upon in some manner – water.

Stay up to date on all the ways you can protect Long Island's water by becoming a member of the Long Island Clean Water Partnership. And never miss a blog post from the Partnership by signing up to receive our posts directly to your inbox here



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Legislative Session

What Change Looks Like

With your support, we will save this precious resource for generations to come

What is the price for protecting our way of life, for defending our water?

Unfortunately, not everyone values Long Island’s water like Long Islanders. The New York State Legislature is now in session. In Albany, hundreds of miles away, legislators debate on how to manage our bays, harbors, and aquifers.

We, the Long Island Clean Water Partnership—with the power of our members—will ensure our representatives hear our concerns loud and clear.

We have lit the path to safeguard our way of life before. When LICWP has asked members to contact legislators, we witnessed overwhelming success!

With your help, we created the Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan, won $2.5 billion in state-wide water-quality funding, and raised millions in local funds from the 2016 extension of the Community Preservation Fund.

These are only a few examples of what was made possible by outreach to legislators though the LICWP’s Action Alerts.

This legislative session, in partnership with our robust environmental networkwith officials from local villages, towns, and Nassau and Suffolk countywe have drafted a few simple requests.

In the coming weeks, we will send out Action Alerts as we need your help to ensure State Representatives in the Senate and Assembly hear your support for these proposals:

  1. Septic System Design Cost Reduction – Senate Bill S8253Assembly Bill 10438. This measure will cut needless red tape to substantially lower the cost of county-approved onsite wastewater treatment systems. The mechanism is simple. For design flows of less than 1,000 gallons per day, certified design professionals will be able to approve installation of county-tested, plug-in-play wastewater treatment systems.
  2. Financing Onsite Wastewater Upgrades – Senate Bill 8255 / Assembly Bill 10444. This legislation provides homeowners with the option to finance the remaining cost (those not covered by grants) on their tax bill.
  3. Reduce Nitrogen Pollution from Fertilizer – Senate Bill 8170 / Assembly Bill 10276. This is a no brainer. We need to stop excessive nitrogen pollution from fertilizers. This legislation prohibits the sale or use of water-soluble, high nitrogen fertilizer on Long Island—greatly reducing the amount of nitrogen able to reach our waters.

Stay tuned for you chance to make these bills a reality.

We will save this precious resource so that future generations can enjoy the fabric that blends our island society together: Our water!

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The Emerging Culprit: PFAS

The Emerging Culprit: PFAS

Man-made chemicals polluting Long Island waters

Studies finding man-made chemicals in some drinking water supplies on Long Island have been making headlines recently across Long Island. Unfortunately, it appears that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has sought to block the release of the study, which shows perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) may be more dangerous than previously thought. In response to this, U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand recently called on federal regulators to release the study, citing this information that is vital to protecting public health.

These man-made chemicals (often associated with fire-fighting foams, stain and water-repellants, along with some paints, polishes and waxes) represent a new threat to our already fragile drinking water supply. Contamination starts on the surface, working its way into the ground and into our drinking water supply. Studies have continually shown the detrimental impacts of PFAS to Long Island water, and further studies are being conducted to better understand the health effects of these contaminants. Sadly, PFAS have also been found in humans, wildlife, and fish, and the EPA now considers these chemicals to be a likely human carcinogen. In a Newsday article published this week, Senator Schumer shared this statement:

I am deeply disturbed by reports that the Trump administration and top EPA officials are blocking a report vital to protect public health. The people of Long Island and beyond need and deserve to know just how harmful PFAS and PFOA, like those on the East End and around Gabreski (Air National Guard Base in Westhampton Beach), are to the body.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that we cannot rely on federal agencies like the EPA to be responsive to the environmental health needs of our local communities here on Long Island. We need more support from local and State governments to protect our drinking water! Tell your legislators to join Senators Schumer and Gillibrand in urging the EPA to release the PFAS study and to take a stand for clean water by protecting what we have. Tell them the need to clean up polluted drinking water, advocate for change, and invest in the long-term health of our bays, harbors, and other waterways. You can get involved by joining the Long Island Clean Water Partnership today!

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Protecting Long Island’s Water for Future Generations

In recognition of Mother’s Day, we’re sharing a story of a Shelter Island Mom who is raising the next generation of environmental stewards.

Lora, who grew up on Shelter Island and whose Mom worked at the Mashomack Preserve, developed a love for the natural world at a young age. Now, as she raises her own kids on Shelter Island, she works to make sure that they develop that same connection to nature and grow up to be good stewards of the earth.

Lora feels that it is important to get her kids outside and away from the many indoor distractions.  Her family spends a lot of time on the water – they go swimming, paddleboarding, explore the salt marsh, look for crabs, and go snapper-fishing at the end of the summer.  She is also a Girl Scouts Leader and leads an Island-wide beach cleanup.

“Shelter Island is just like the rest of Long Island – we have our aquifer as our source of drinking water and that’s it.”
Lora worries about the serious water quality issues that are plaguing Long Island – problems like harmful algae blooms and fish kills, that are caused by the excess nitrogen entering our waters.  She hopes that people will listen, take action and educate others, so that the next generation will have a beautiful natural world to inherit.

“It takes energy, but it pays off so much.”

Happy Mother’s Day to all the great moms out there that are raising the next generation of environmental leaders!



Help protect Long Island's waters for future generations - sign up to become a member of the Long Island Clean Water Partnership.

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