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New Year’s Resolution: Protect Our Water

It's easy to help Long Island's water in 2019

2019 doesn’t have to be “New Year, Same Problems.” While the task of making a list of New Year’s resolutions you can actually stick to may seem daunting, there are some easy ones worth seeing through. Think about the bigger picture and add protecting Long Island’s water to your list. It is the basis of what makes this place we call home so special. Long Island’s sole source aquifer provides our drinking water and serves as a major draw for tourism, fisheries, and our economy. It also needs our help and protection. Here are our nine resolution suggestions for 2019!

This year, I will...

1. Do my part at home to keep Long Island’s water safe by safely disposing of medications, using natural fertilizers on my lawn, and reduce the use of common household contaminants.

2. Pick up after my pet to prevent their waste from ending up in our local waterways.

3. Spend more time at the beach because: ___________ <why do you love the beach?>

4. Reduce, reuse, refuse single-use plastics and other items that end up on our beaches and in our waterways in an effort to keep Long Island beautiful. When I can’t reduce, reuse, or refuse, I will recycle.

5. Make my voice heard by holding local elected officials accountable and telling them they need to protect Long Island’s water today.

6. Encourage others to protect Long Island’s water as it is something we all have in common and cannot live without!

7. Spend more time on the water responsibly with family and friends.

8. Conserve water by turning off the tap while I brush my teeth, only running the dishwasher when it is full, taking shorter showers, and use EPA-certified Watersense fixtures.

9. Join the Long Island Clean Water Partnership!

Also, if you live in Suffolk County, check Reclaim Our Water to see if you qualify for Suffolk County’s septic rebate programs. Then, change out your old septic system for a new advanced treatment model to help protect Long Island's water even more. Have ideas of your own? Share them with us on Facebook and Twitter. Happy New Year!

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NYS Tackles Emerging Contaminants

NY Sets Toughest Standards in Nation for 1,4-Dioxane, PFOS, PFOA

Great news! The New York State Drinking Water Council has voted to recommend the toughest drinking water standards in the nation for emerging contaminants. The Council voted this week to set a standard of 1 ppb for 1,4-dioxane and 10 ppt for PFOS and PFOA. These three contaminants have been found in high levels in Long Island’s drinking water, but unfortunately there was no state or federal enforceable safe drinking water standard. Once NYS adopts these drinking water standards, we can better protect Long Islanders from these toxins.

1,4-Dioxane

1,4-Dioxane is a likely carcinogen found in 46% of all personal care products, including shampoos, soaps, laundry detergents, and baby products.  Unfortunately, Long Island is home to the highest levels of 1,4 dioxane in drinking water in the nation. Many wells contained levels over 10 times the EPA’s cancer risk guideline of .35 ppb. Suffolk County Water Authority has been piloting an effective treatment technology to remove 1,4-dioxane. An enforceable standard will provide a clear directive to water companies on how to effectively treat for this chemical. New York’s recommendation of 1 ppb will be the most stringent, enforceable drinking water standard for 1,4-dioxane in the nation.

PFOA and PFOS

PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic Acid) and PFOS (Perfluorooctane Sulfonate) are emerging contaminants with links to serious health impacts, including reproductive and immunological effects as well as cancers. These contaminants are persistent in the environment and were found in nonstick cookware, waterproofing treatments, and firefighting foams. The problems with PFOA and PFOS contamination became a national news story when high levels of the chemicals caused a public health crisis in Hoosick Falls, NY. PFOS was also found at high levels in Westhampton, Hampton Bays, East Hampton, and Yaphank. Unlike 1,4-dioxane, PFOS and PFOA can be treated relatively inexpensively with carbon filtration systems, but we still need a standard to ensure that water companies are removing these chemicals from drinking water.

Next Steps

We applaud the great work of NYS and the Drinking Water Quality Council for recommending effective standards to reduce these harmful chemicals, but there is more work to do. The next step is for the NYS Department of Health to begin a regulatory process that formally adopts the standards. Grant funding will be needed to be available for water suppliers to remove these chemicals from drinking water. It is a great step in beginning to remove these contaminants from drinking water, but we also must ensure that we stop the contamination at the source. 1,4-dioxane is still prevalent in everyday personal care products. New York State needs to ban 1,4-dioxane in products to prevent further contamination of our water resources.

These rigorous drinking water standard recommendations for 1,4-dioxane, PFOS, and PFOA is a significant step towards protecting Long Islanders from these harmful toxins. We look forward to these standards being expeditiously adopted by NYS and hope these standards can serve as models for other states. As the LICWP continues our work to protect our water and health from emerging contaminants, make sure you are registered to receive our updates and learn how you can help with these campaigns.

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Water Conservation Tips

Do your part for Long Island’s water at home

Water pollution is often the hot topic of discussion for the Long Island Clean Water Partnership. From contaminants to harmful algal blooms, and advocating for policy change on the local and regional level, we work to raise an awareness of what threatens Long Island’s water. What is equally important however, is water conservation. 

According the Suffolk County Water Authority, while 70 to 75% of the Earth’s surface is covered with water, only 1% is available for human use. This is an extremely valuable, finite resource. Using water efficiently helps to preserve our water supply for future generations. Here are some water conservation tips you can do at home:

Running Water – Simple things like turning off the tap while you brush your teeth, only running the washer and dishwasher when they are full, and taking shorter showers conserve water. WaterSense fixtures meet the EPA’s standards for water conservation by using less water and still performing as well or better than standard models. Look for these labels when replacing fixtures.

Fix Leaks – A toilet leak can waste around 200 gallons of water every day. Fixing a leak can reduce household water use and conserve water. Check for other leaks around faucets as well. 

Lawn Care – Cut your grass high at three inches to ward off invasive plants, build stronger root systems, and require less water. If you must water your lawn, do so in the early morning or evening when water evaporates less quickly. High-nitrogen fertilizers are also a detriment to our water quality. Opting for natural lawn care service can help mitigate these concerns.

Transportation – Washing a car uses about 150 gallons of water. Wash your car by hand with a bucket and sponge (skip the hose!) or cut back on car washes all together to help conserve water. One gallon of gasoline takes about 13 gallons of water to produce. Use public transportation, carpool, or group your errands together to spend less time in the car. It saves money, too.

Do you know how much water you’re using? Use the Water Footprint Calculator to see how much water you use and what you can cut back on to help conserve water. For more tips on what you can do at home to help protect Long Island’s water, click here.

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Long Islanders’ Water Friendly Guide to the Holidays

Combining Conservation with the Holiday Spirit

The holiday season is in full swing. From time with family and friends to colder weather, we know this time of the year is synonymous with fun! However, throughout these festivities, it is imperative that we take care of our natural resources, principally our water quality.  It is estimated that a single average holiday dinner for eight people requires more than 42,000 gallons of water to grow, transport, prepare and cook. This is equivalent to the water that fills a 30 x 50 swimming pool. So why not get started early on a New Years’ Resolution to protect Long Island’s water by following these important tips:

  • Snow can act as a major producer of nonpoint source water pollution.  In the event of a “winter wonderland”, shovel frequently during the storm to reduce the need for salt and de-icing materials. If you need to remove ice, consider using sugar beet juice – a more environmentally friendly alternative.
  • After your holiday party, consider reusing leftover melted ice as water for indoor plants.
  • An estimated fifty gallons of water can be used in the process of defrosting frozen foods. Instead, consider defrosting your food in your refrigerator overnight.
  • Fill a pitcher of water hours before dinner and cool it in a refrigerator. This will help reduce the water wasted while waiting at the faucet for cold water. 
  • Keep an eye on your food waste. It is estimated that American household waste increases by more than 25% in the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. This can have a detrimental impact on water quality through the growing, manufacturing, shipping and selling of our food
  • But most importantly have fun and stay thankful! The holiday season is a time to reflect and remember what is most important to us. Don’t forget to remain grateful for a clean environment and pristine water quality that gives life to our communities.

The Long Island Clean Water Partnership wishes you a happy and healthy holiday season! Whether you are wishing to go ice skating or hopefully looking out of your window to see snowfall, water holds a prominent position in making the holidays special. Return the favor by dedicating yourself to protecting the sources of water around you. While the magic of the holidays are a guarantee each and every year, the sanctity of our water is not. By following the above tips, you can help inch clean water closer to becoming a guarantee!

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Water Pollution – Who’s to Blame?

Why we need to protect Long Island water today

Given every community's competing interests, it can be a struggle to make elected officials aware of what’s impacting our waters and motivate them to take decisive action. Unfortunately, cleaning up our waters often requires finding the polluters, which can be an incredibly challenging struggle all on its own. Recently, on the East End of Long Island, there has been debate as to where some serious contaminants in the drinking water are coming from. Perflourinated compounds – including perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) contamination – were detected last spring in East Quogue at record levels for Long Island. These dangerous, manmade chemicals have also been linked to cancer and other serious health impacts.

One of the initial contamination suspects was a former Southampton Town landfill in East Quogue, though recently Southampton Town officials pointed to Gabreski Airport as a possible source instead. 

Such debate and disagreement are not uncommon in the complicated science of tracking groundwater contamination, and given the costs of clean-up, there are substantial economic benefits to being let "off the hook" in areas of longstanding pollution. Unfortunately, in the absence of clearly identifying polluters, clean-up or pollution mitigation often falls to government. Those clean-up costs reduce the funding that is available for other necessary water quality protection projects. 

Consider the recent use of water quality funds from the Community Preservation Fund (CPF) – a campaign the Long Island Clean Water Partnership worked tirelessly to extend in an effort to protect land and water through 2050. An amendment to the CPF was passed over the summer that specifically allowed use of the funds to help alleviate contamination through water main extension. 

In the face of rising groundwater contamination in East Hampton and Southampton, these funds are now being considered as a means to pay for public water main extensions in areas where contamination has reached private wells. Although the provision of clean water is essential, the failure to identify polluters and hold them accountable inevitably shifts the cost of contamination onto the public while the culprits go free.

We need to protect Long Island’s water today and not wait until our drinking is already contaminated to take action. Contact your legislators and tell them to stand up for clean water on Long Island and to hold polluters accountable for contaminating our drinking water. Now more than ever we need your voice. For what you can do at home, click here.

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"Water We Going To Do?" Seven Was a Success!

The Long Island Clean Water Partnership hosted its seventh annual “Water We Going To Do?” Conference on Wednesday, October 24th.  About 200 Long Islanders filled the room to hear the latest on the effort to restore the Island’s water quality. Government officials and scientists discussed the problems in our waters, and provided solutions and hope for the future.

Ryan Wallace, from the Gobler Lab at Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences started off the program with an overview of Long Island’s water quality impairments. Our coastal waters did not fare well in the Summer of 2018 – nearly every major bay and estuary across Long Island was afflicted with a toxic algae bloom, oxygen-starved waters or both. It is a widespread and serious problem.

Ty Fuller of the Suffolk County Water Authority discussed the emerging contaminants appearing in Long Island’s waters, their associated treatment methods and their costs.

Next, Mary Anne Taylor of CDM Smith and consultant for Suffolk County, released data from the County’s subwatershed mapping. Their study calculates the current nitrogen loading to the Island’s 200+ subwatersheds and will set nitrogen-reduction goals for each of those watersheds. It is clear that we will have to drastically reduce nitrogen across the Island to see ecosystem recovery.

Following that, Suffolk County Officials Peter Scully and Justin Jobin, discussed the status of the County’s septic replacement program. Scully discussed the successes of the grant and loan program available to homeowners to replace their polluting systems with new nitrogen-removing technology. Jobin discussed the outstanding performance of several new systems to significantly remove nitrogen from household effluent.

Representatives from Stony Brook’s Center for Clean Water Technology, Frank Russo, Molly Graffam & Samantha Roberts, discussed the new nitrogen-removing technology that is being researched at the institute. This included nitrogen-removing biofilters, permeable reactive barriers and constructed wetlands.

James Tierney of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and John Cameron of the Long Island Regional Planning Council provided updates on the status of the Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan.

Keynote speaker, Dr. Christopher Patrick from Texas A&M University, discussed the successes of the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Program. A 23% reduction in nitrogen entering the watershed has resulted in a 316% increase in seagrass. Healthy seagrass meadows are an indicator of a clean marine environment. Chesapeake Bay’s successes provide hope for Long Island’s waters. We know that when nitrogen is removed from a watershed, the ecosystem can recover.

Other speakers included Chris Schubert from USGS on groundwater sustainability; Brian Schneider on Nassau County’s water initiatives; Mary Wilson and Janice Scherer from Southampton Town on the success of the town’s Community Preservation Fund water improvement program; and Joseph Davenport on the re-opening of the Town of Hempstead’s water quality laboratory.

It was a great conference and we truly thank all of our speakers and attendees for their interest and involvement in protecting Long Island’s water quality. If you missed the conference, powerpoint slides can be downloaded here. Stay tuned for video coverage of the event!

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Florida Wildlife Kills – Long Island Native Sees Serious Risks Ahead for Local Waters

Pollution concerns spread along the coast

The devastating impacts of harmful algal blooms (HABs), blue green, brown, rust, and red tides, which have been linked to nitrogen pollution, are sadly not unique to Long Island’s water. In addition to recent local water quality reports that show every major bay and estuary on Long Island was afflicted by toxic algae blooms, oxygen starved waters (also known as hypoxia) or both over the summer, there has been news of massive wildlife die-offs in Florida. We asked Long Island native Andrew Blaurock, who is now a student at Eckerd College in Florida’s west coast, to share the risks he sees ahead for our waters.

Blaurock showed an interest in the environment at a young age. He was part of Long Island Clean Water Partnership founding member Group for the East End’s Summer Field Ecology Program, and later became an intern. His love for nature also inspires some of his illustration work. 

“Growing up on Long Island, the ocean was always very important to me,” Blaurock said. “Some of my favorite activities when I was younger was seining in local bays and going through my haul on the shore, checking out every new and exciting creature I’d netted before releasing them back into the sea. I’d always been interested in biodiversity and sought more than what I had typically seen on Long Island when I chose to go to school in Florida.”

School kept Blaurock busy, and he didn’t have the chance to explore local wildlife until the red tide hit, killing dozens of batfish, pufferfish, moray eels, boxfish, triggerfish, angelfish, and more. Washed on the shores of St. Petersburg, these marine species were surrounded by a sea of dead snappers, baitfish, and other bony fish. Blaurock shared these photos last month of the dead wildlife near his campus. 

“Seeing this devastation first hand was certainly a wake-up call, inspiring me to get more involved in a field that had always interested me,” Blaurock shared. “This destruction isn’t just limited to Florida; similar algal blooms can occur off of most coastlines, and they are only exacerbated by pollution and general environmental ignorance. There is no definitive end in sight, but something must be done. The time to take action is now, because there won’t be a later.”

Stand up for Long Island’s water and join the Long Island Clean Water Partnership today! You can also attend the 7th annual “Water We Going To Do?” Conference on Wednesday, October 24 to learn what’s next in the fight to save Long Island water.

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“Water We Going To Do?” Conference Keynote Speaker: Christopher J. Patrick, Ph.D.

Can an ecosystem recover from nitrogen pollution?

Members of the Long Island Clean Water Partnership are busy preparing for the 7th annual “Water We Going To Do?” Conference taking place on Wednesday, October 24 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. While news of Long Island’s waters and communities are still suffering from the impacts of pollution continues to emerge, we ask ourselves, can we bring our ecosystems back from pollution? This year’s keynote speaker, an assistant professor in the Department of Life Sciences at Texas AM University, Christopher J. Patrick, Ph.D., asked the same question during a study of Chesapeake Bay. The answer gives us hope.

One of the largest estuaries in the world, Chesapeake Bay has fallen victim to anthropogenic (human) impacts that have led to a damaged ecosystem. Humans have long had this effect on the health of the environment, including coastal waterbodies that so often make the news today. Nutrient pollution has caused widespread degradation of coastal habitats and many efforts to reverse the damage have been largely unsuccessful. There is hope, however, as the study conducted by Dr. Patrick and his fellow scientists observed watershed modeling, biogeochemical data, and comprehensive aerial surveys of Chesapeake Bay over the course of 30 consecutive years. The study aimed to quantify the effects of human impacts on submersed aquatic vegetation (SAV) – ecologically and economically valuable habitats. 

By employing structural equation models to link land use change to higher nutrient loads, SAV cover is reduced through multiple, independent pathways. Through these efforts and sustained management actions, nitrogen concentrations have been reduced in Chesapeake Bay by 23% since 1984. Nutrient reductions and biodiversity conservation have proven to be effective strategies to recover degraded coastal systems such as this. Read more on the study here

Long Island’s water is essential to our every way of life from shellfish industries to tourism. Though we have a long way to go, we know there are actions that can be taken to help mitigate the concerns of worsening water quality. Join us at the “Water We Going To Do?” Conference this month and hear more from Dr. Patrick and several other great presenters on what’s next in the fight to save Long Island water. 

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Seven Reasons to Attend the Seventh Annual "Water We Going To Do?" Conference

The Long Island Clean Water Partnership is hosting its seventh annual “Water We Going To Do?” Conference on Wednesday, October 24th! Each year, the Partnership brings together leaders from government and the scientific, business, civic, and environmental communities to discuss the progress that’s been made toward improving water quality Island-wide, and the steps needed to be taken in the coming year.

More details about this event and coverage of past events can be found here.

Since this is our seventh annual conference, we’d like to present to you seven reasons why you should attend this year:

1.  It’s free and open to the public. Enjoy a complimentary breakfast and hear the latest on the effort to restore Long Island’s water quality!

2. You’ll have a chance to network with other like-minded individuals who are working hard to protect Long Island’s water. More than 200 people usually attend the event!

3.  Your attendance shows elected officials that water quality is important to you. Several elected and governmental officials will be in attendance and the event is likely to be covered by news channels – your presence shows that Long Islanders care about their water quality and are demanding action.

4.  You’ll get a better understanding of the state of Long Island’s water quality. Learn about areas that may have improved and new areas of concern.

5.  You’ll learn about programs that are working to address Long Island’s water quality issues.  Hear about what people in and out of government are doing to improve water quality. You might be eligible for one of the septic system upgrade programs, or there may be other projects you’d like to get involved in or share with your friends and family. Find out about these programs at our conference!

6.  You might learn something new! We’re expecting to have more than 15 speakers/presentations, each covering a different topic related to Long Island water quality improvement. Some speakers will be presenting new information to the public.

7. Many of you have been coming to the conference since the beginning – attending again, this year, will allow you to gain perspective on just how far we’ve come!

We hope to see you there! Spots are filling-up quickly, register today, here.

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Rust Tide Spreading Across Long Island

Just in time for Labor Day Weekend, a deadly “Rust Tide” developed and spread across Long Island. What began as an isolated event in Eastern Shinnecock Bay earlier in August, has now spread across Great South Bay, parts of the Long Island Sound, and the Peconic Estuary.

Harmful Algae Blooms (often referred to as “tides”) are caused by excess nitrogen.  The main source of nitrogen in our waters is human wastewater from septic systems and cesspools. Nitrogen from home and agricultural fertilizer is also a source.  This nitrogen flows into our aquifers, and eventually into our bays, harbors, lakes, ponds and streams, fueling the overgrowth of harmful algae. These blooms have devastating effects on marine life and can also be a public health threat. As nitrogen inputs increase on Long Island, these blooms become more frequent and intense.

Increasing summer water temperatures have also been identified as a factor in the proliferation of these blooms. Water temperatures today are significantly warmer than the temperatures of the twentieth century, which has aided in the growth of the algae.

Rust tide algae, or Cochlodinium, can be lethal to marine life at high levels.  This particular rust tide incident caused the death of tens of thousands of aquacultured fish and shellfish, that were caged in eastern Long Island waters. Thankfully, rust tide is not harmful to humans in any way.

The Long Island Clean Water Partnership in conjunction with the Gobler Laboratory will soon be releasing its annual Water Quality Report – which maps these water quality events and allows us to track any progress or deteriorations throughout the years. The Partnership will also be hosting its 7th Annual “Water We Going To Do?” Conference on Wednesday, October 24th. Please stay tuned!
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Rust tide tracked and reported by the Gobler Laboratory of Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences – Press release available here.

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