If you're already a member, please log in. If not, please register.

Log In   |   Register

LICWP

Blog

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!

Read More »

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.

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

Read More »

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!

Read More »

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



Read More »

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!

Read More »

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!

Read More »

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.

Read More »

First Harmful Algal Bloom of the Season

A few weeks out from Memorial Day, Long Island has seen our first HAB of the summer

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has had to temporarily close a portion of western Shinnecock Bay to harvesting shellfish due to red tide.  The red tide is caused by a toxic algae called Alexandrium which produces saxitoxin, a dangerous neurotoxin that cause paralytic shellfish poisoning in humans. Right now, 1,600 acres are closed for shellfishing. To learn more red tide, check out our previous blog post.

Red tide has appeared in Long Island waters for over a decade, leading to shellfish bed closures and causing a massive die-off of turtles in the Peconic back in 2015. Red tide, like other harmful algal blooms (HABs) that plague Long Island, are caused by excessive nitrogen in our waters.  Failing sewage infrastructure, outdated septics and cesspools have continued to exacerbate our nitrogen pollution problem, but we know what we need to do to combat red tide and other HABs: Upgrade our sewage and septic systems.

After red tide was found in Northport Harbor in 2006, Northport and Centerport Harbors became the epicenter for red tide. The outdated Northport Sewage Treatment Plant was discharging excess nitrogen and other pollutants into the harbor and led to Centerport Beach being closed for seven years. However, after fighting for funding to upgrade the plant and have state-of-the-art nitrogen reduction measures, Centerport Beach was open in 2015 and Northport Harbor did not have a red tide event in five years. Unfortunately, in 2018, 500 acres of shellfish beds in Northport Harbor were closed due to the emergence of red tide.   

In the near future, we must continue to fight the emergence of these algae blooms and work to reduce Long Island's nitrogen pollution output.  In some areas, that means upgrading sewage infrastructure. For the 360,000 people in Suffolk on septics and cesspools, that means upgrading to advanced on-site systems that will remove nitrogen.  New York State dedicated $10m this year for upgrading septics in Suffolk and $1m for Nassau, and Suffolk County has approved several systems that significantly reduce nitrogen entering our groundwater. Suffolk County is offering rebates for residents who want to upgrade to an advanced on-site wastewater treatment system and have already had success with systems that have been installed. To find out more, visit Suffolk County’s Reclaim our Waters Initiative.

Read More »

Kids Playing in Long Island Sound

Where Has Nitrogen Reduction Been Successful?

While there is a big price-tag associated with upgrading the 360,000 cesspools and septic systems that leach nitrogen pollution into our groundwater, the cost of doing nothing is not an option as harmful algal blooms, fish kills, beach and shellfish closures continue to plague our region.

But as millions of dollars begin to be invested in alternative septic systems to reduce the flow of nitrogen pollution from sewage into Long Island’s waters, how do we know that the investment will pay off?  How do we know that less nitrogen will mean more fish, fewer closings of lakes and ponds, and healthier tidal marshes—to name just a few of the goals of the many people working at the state and local levels to improve our water quality and public health?

Chesapeake Bay, the nation’s largest estuary, has an answer. There, a 23 percent reduction in nitrogen pollution has been accompanied by a gain of 42,000 acres of sea grass—a vital underwater habitat that supports shellfish and finfish yet is extremely difficult to restore once lost. That’s an increase of 316 percent in seagrass cover since nitrogen reductions began there. Authors of a recent peer-reviewed study published in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Science call the return of sea grass to Chesapeake Bay an “unprecedented recovery.”

Other nitrogen-reduction success stories include increased dissolved oxygen in Long Island Sound following reductions of nitrogen discharges from sewage treatment plants, return of sea grass to Mumford Cove in Connecticut following the removal of a sewage outfall pipe, and a large resurgence in seagrass cover in Tampa Bay, FL, but the study’s authors say that “the Chesapeake Bay has seen greater total and proportional recovery than any other [sea grass] restoration project of which we are aware.”

Long Island has followed several of the policy changes implemented in the Chesapeake Bay region including rebate programs for onsite wastewater system upgrades. As long as we make the necessary investments, we can expect that our results will also emulate those of the Chesapeake.

Economic Gains from Better Water Quality

Economic gains from better water quality are no drop in the bucket, according to a Stony Brook University study based on Suffolk County home sales. The study found “a 1-foot improvement in water clarity” could result in housing value increases “equaling $2.7 billion in the aggregate for Suffolk County.”

The best way to stem the tide of destructive nitrogen pollution is to eliminate it at its source. In most places on Long Island, the primary source for nitrogen pollution is human waste water flowing from our septic systems. That waste water reaches our bays, harbors, ponds and creeks through ground water flow and threatens Long Island’s health, economy and quality of life. We’re fixing it now by modernizing and upgrading our wastewater treatment systems. This process is in its infancy and there is still a lot to be learned about best practices. Suffolk County is to be commended for taking steps to create a program that will mitigate nitrogen pollution at its source to protect our Long Island way of life for us and our children.

Read More »

Perfluorinated Chemicals in Our Drinking Water

Long Island's water supply at risk

Emerging contaminants like Perfluorinated Chemicals (PFCs) present a new threat to our drinking water supply. Unfortunately, there is no set standard for these synthetic manufacturing chemicals that are widespread and have been found in bloodstreams of humans, wildlife and fish, and are considered by the US EPA to be a likely human carcinogen. We all know that Long Island’s sole source aquifer is already at risk, but with each passing day, it seems like the threats to Long Island’s waters just keeps rising.

In 2016, the US Environmental Protection Agency first confirmed unregulated PFCs in the local drinking water wells near the Westhampton Air Base. In August 2017, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation launched its own investigation into the source of PFC pollution responsible for contaminating more than 100 private wells near an airport in Westhampton. These investigations led researchers to suspect that the source of the PFCs was related to a firefighting foam used at the nearby air base for decades and had polluted residents’ drinking water. 

But the problem doesn’t end in Westhampton…

After a sustained investigation, The Suffolk County Health Department is now expanding its own survey of private wells near the East Hampton Airport and a former sand mine after the discovery of PFCs in contaminated wells went from 59 to 63 in the nearby hamlet of Wainscott. PFCs are also now showing up in the hamlet East Quogue at a former town brush dump with significant potential consequences for local homeowners with private wells. 

So, what’s the concern? Unfortunately, EPA’s current lifetime health advisory level for PFCs is only .07 parts per billion, yet PFC concentrations in some private wells have been found to be more than 100 times greater. In addition to locating the sources of contamination, further studies are now being conducted to better determine the health effects of PFCs, with some researchers finding links between the chemicals and behavioral disorders, neurobehavioral development, and immune function.

Long Island needs strong protection by government at both the local and State levels to protect our drinking water. You can help us deliver this message!  Tell your legislators to take a stand for clean water by protecting the clean water we have, cleaning up our polluted drinking water, and investing in the long-term health of our coastal bays and harbors. You can also stay informed by joining the Long Island Clean Water Partnership today!

Read More »


View all posts