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It Takes a Village

Joining together to protect our water

At the Long Island Clean Water Partnership, we often discuss the impact of water pollution, the ongoing threats our waters face, initiatives we are implementing to protect our drinking water, and the results of our actions. While the Partnership aims to lead the way for water quality improvement and protection, there are many other communities that come together to help advance this necessary mission.

Southampton Village residents, state and local elected officials, and environmentalists came together recently to discuss the issues the polluted Lake Agawam faces and look for solutions to help clean up this once beautiful waterbody. The group plans to found the Lake Agawam Conservancy to protect it from future blue-green algae blooms, much of which results from nitrogen from runoff in the village’s business district. Each summer, these blooms have made the lake unsafe for humans and pets.

This is not the first time small communities have taken action to protect the waters they love. Friends of Georgica Pond, Friends of the Bay, Group to Save Goldsmith Inlet, Coalition to Save Hempstead Harbor, Manhasset Bay Protection Committee, Preserve Plum Island, and many more across Nassau and Suffolk Counties are taking action. When these groups join together on an even larger scale, big change can happen.

Many communities, civic groups, environmentalists, organizations, elected officials, and more have come together to help address water pollution problems. We applaud these efforts, which have proven invaluable in the fight for clean water. As the Long Island Clean Water Partnership is committed to finding solutions for our polluted waters, we want to see summers where our beaches are open and shellfish is safe to eat. We want to know our water is safe to drink and that our elected officials are doing everything in their power to ensure this is true for future generations. You can help! Join the Partnership today to help protect and restore our waters. Click here to learn more.

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Plan to Protect Our Waters

We have a problem

If you’ve read a newspaper or watched a local news channel in the past five years, then you know that Long Island is facing a water quality crisis. We’ve seen a decline in shellfish populations, continuous harmful algae blooms that plague our coastal waters and close our favorite beaches, and even coastal flooding. We have a problem. The biggest threat to our water quality is nitrogen pollution from cesspools and septic systems. Nitrogen-laden wastewater from our homes flows into these systems and into our underground drinking water aquifers and eventually, into our surface waters. In Suffolk County alone, 70% of homes are hooked up to these antiquated systems, that were never designed to remove nitrogen, only pathogens.

Suffolk County has studied the nitrogen levels in 191 individual waterbodies and has determined that up to 90% reductions in nitrogen will be required in many areas, to restore and protect our waters.

Nitrogen Pollution Explained:



The good news is: We know how to fix it!

New septic systems with nitrogen-removing technology have been developed and when installed, can reduce nitrogen in effluent by up to 90%. 360,000 individual household systems will eventually need to be replaced with this new technology. Suffolk County Department of Health Services recently announced a $4 billion plan to modernize household wastewater infrastructure. You can read all about the plan here.

Now that we have a plan, we need to tell the Suffolk County Legislature to adopt it, so we can finally start the journey to protect our health, economy, and quality of life.

Show your support!

Please join the Long Island Clean Water Partnership and attend one of these important hearings to let your elected officials know why clean water is important to you and your family.

Eastern Suffolk

September 5, 2019 – 6 pm to 8 pm

Riverhead Legislative Auditorium

300 Center Drive, Riverhead, NY 11901

Western Suffolk

September 6, 2019 – 3 pm to 5 pm

Suffolk County Community College

Crooked Hill Road, Brentwood, NY 11717


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Algal Blooms Are Lethal to Pets

Protecting our four-legged friends

Spend summer on Long Island and you’re likely to see dogs in parks and on beaches just as much as people. Long Islanders love this extra time outdoors with their four-legged friends. The pups do, too. But are they really safe? As concerns of toxic algal blooms plague our fresh and saltwater bodies each year, dogs are just as at risk as we are. 

A recent article in The New York Times details reports from dog owners across the country that have reported their pets becoming fatally ill after swimming in and ingesting water filled with toxic blue-green algae. These blooms thrive in summer months when the temperatures are warmer. While the sights and smells of algae are apparent to humans, keeping most out of these polluted waters, “animals sometimes lap up the water, ingest floating pieces of algae or snap at floating algal balloons. They could fall fatally ill after licking their wet fur. Toxic algae can also dry up into crusts onshore, where dogs might nibble on them.”

Algal blooms killing dogs is nothing new. In 2012, a dog died after drinking water in East Hampton’s Georgica Pond that was laden with blue-green algae. The following year, there were two more reports of dog deaths from swimming in these toxic waters in Southampton. When reports of these blooms appear in our waters, killing shellfish and making people sick, we should also take extra care in ensuring our pets stay away from these waters, too. The science is increasingly clear that a major cause of our region’s water quality problems is tied to outdated and failing septic systems.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Beach and lake closures should not be the norm. We live on an island and are surrounded by water! It drives the local economy, tourism, fisheries, and more. At the Long Island Clean Water Partnership, we are committed to finding solutions to our water quality problems to protect and restore our waters for the future. Alternatives now exist to better treat our sewage and protect our waters. For more information about how you can qualify for financial assistance to replace your old septic system, click here.

Join us to ensure your drinking water is safe now and for generations to come!

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Long Island Can Turn the Ugly Tide

Members of the Long Island Clean Water Partnership applaud Suffolk County and the Department of Health Services for its new Subwatersheds Wastewater Plan, released today for public comment. The comprehensive study is a blueprint for solving the nitrogen crisis. It is the first science-based study to examine more than 180 watersheds across the county and establish clean water targets for each. Check out this great editorial by Newsday on the subject!

Newsday Editorial - August 3, 2019
By The Editorial Board

On Long Island, we find ourselves drawn to the water that surrounds us. It calls us, and we seek it out.

The water is a place to swim and boat, to fish and surf, to paddle and sail. We walk and bike along its shore, stretch out before it to read a good book, and eat dinner while gazing at its moonlit beauty. For some of us, it’s a place of work. For most of us, it’s a place to play. It’s a magnet for tourists and a sanctuary for our overworked and overstressed selves.

But over the years, we’ve treated it badly — mostly, by dumping nitrogen in it. Some of that comes from the fertilizers we use on our lawns and crops. A little comes from the air. But most of it comes from the cesspools and septic tanks that inadequately filter the wastewater we produce at home and at work.

We know all this. The science is rock solid.

We also know what excess nitrogen has done to our water.

It has fueled the algal blooms that have decimated our shellfishing industry. It has killed much of the eel grass that makes up the marshlands that protect us from storms. It has depleted oxygen levels, creating dead zones in which fish cannot survive, as in three big fish kills in the Peconic River in 2015. It can turn some lakes, like Agawam Lake in Southampton and Lake Ronkonkoma, so toxic that swimming and other activities in them are banned.

It’s taken a long time, and lots of studies and public education, but most Long Islanders understand well the region’s nitrogen problem.

They also understand that something must be done to address it.

So we welcome a new report from Suffolk County that lays out the problem in exacting detail, analyzing the nitrogen at 191 individual sites called watersheds — surface water, not drinking water, though nitrogen levels are creeping up in some wells, too. Have a look online. The report checks the box for scientific rigor, and confirms what we’ve seen with our own eyes. It also charts a sensible plan forward.

And while it makes a compelling case for acting with urgency, it also offers optimism — that by taking the appropriate steps starting now, and moving steadily forward, we can reverse the trend of increasing nitrogen within 10 years.

A study of Nassau’s North Shore by Stony Brook University shows similar nitrogen issues, and it should serve as a catalyst for that county to take similar steps. 

Suffolk’s strategy is a familiar one, put into overdrive. It calls for targeting homes not connected to sewers — some 360,000, nearly 75 percent of all homes in the county.

That makes sense; one study of the Great South Bay shows that nearly 70 percent of the nitrogen there comes from unsewered homes.

Some of these homes would be connected to sewers where density makes that feasible. Thanks to public votes this year in favor of sewer expansions, some $360 million in federal and state grants will be spent to connect roughly 7,000 homes in Babylon Town, Oakdale and Mastic. That’s a great start toward the project’s eventual goal of 30,000.

The county proposes to complement that by expanding its efforts to work with homeowners to replace cesspools and septic systems with innovative high-tech systems far more effective at removing nitrogen from wastewater. Wisely, it would begin with homes in high priority areas where it takes the least amount of time for groundwater nitrogen to reach our lakes, rivers, harbors and bays.

Suffolk created its program from scratch, testing and approving alternative systems, training staff and installers, getting state money for grants to help homeowners make the pricey conversions, which can cost up to $20,000. With 262 units installed or approved under the grant program, it’s time to ramp up and the numbers in the plan are big — 172,000 replacements over the next 30 years at an average annual cost of $65 million per year. More will be swapped out in the years after that.

With near-universal buy-in on the need to attack the nitrogen problem, the big question now is where to get the money. Some state funding is available, but a recurring source of revenue is needed.

The preferred solution is to put a fee on water usage above what’s typically used for essential needs. Suffolk County residents would have to vote on a referendum to set such a fee, estimated at about $75 a year for the average homeowner. Getting such a proposition on the 2020 ballot likely will require action by county and state lawmakers, but too many of them have ducked the issue.

It’s time to take a stand. Lawmakers should either let Suffolk residents vote on the county’s proposal to fund the war on nitrogen, or offer their own plan. Neither silence or obstruction are options.

This is a key moment. We either work to put a plan into action and reverse what’s been happening, or continue to watch our waters degrade.

If you’re wondering whether Suffolk can afford to tackle the problem, look at the water all around you and ask yourself the real question:

How can we afford not to?
For more information about the plan click here.

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Setting Health Standards for Emerging Contaminants

State Department of Health lowers maximum contaminant levels

News of emerging contaminants in New York waters is nothing new, yet many such contaminants often remain unregulated. Just recently, a report from the New York Public Interest Research Group announced the findings of a three-year study that found Long Island has the highest concentration of dangerous chemicals like 1,4-dioxane, PFOS, and PFOA in the state. Now, the State Department of Health is taking action and lowering the maximum contaminant levels for these chemicals. 

In a recent Southampton Press news article discussing the impact of these chemicals in East End communities such as Wainscott, Sagaponack, Hampton Bays, East Quogue and Westhampton, New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele pointed out that the federal government did not previously have a standard for these chemicals, rather just a health advisory level.

“’All over the state, the emergence of these contaminants in our drinking water supply and their harmful effects are becoming an increasingly unacceptable reality,’ the assemblyman wrote in the letter, adding that the contaminants have been linked to several potentially life-threatening conditions, such as cancer’” the article reads.  

Further monitoring and regulation of these contaminants has won the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo, who  wants to ensure there is regular testing and fixing of water systems in an effort to mitigate public health risks. Under the new regulations, public water suppliers will be required to test and monitor their water supply quarterly as opposed to annually as required by the Suffolk County Department of Health. Learn more about what these contaminants are here.

Emerging contaminants are just one of many threats facing Long Island waters. At the Long Island Clean Water Partnership, we are committed to finding solutions to our water quality problems including the critical long term funding that will be required to protect and restore our waters for the future. Join us to ensure your drinking water is safe now and for generations to come. Click here to learn more.

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New York State Legislature Passes Environmental Legislation

Good news from Albany!  The New York State Legislature has come to a close and with it, the passage of four important pieces of environmental legislation.

Climate Change

The New York State Legislature passed a groundbreaking piece of legislation this June, aimed at mitigating the impacts of climate change in New York.  This climate action plan is the most ambitious in the United States.

The bill, the “Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA),” requires net-zero emissions by 2050 and 70% renewable energy by 2030. The goal is effectively to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, and replace those sources with cleaner, renewable energy.

The CLCPA set up a process to create a scoping plan, with guidance by a new 22-member Climate Action Council. The Council will report on current greenhouse gas emissions and progress, and adjust its plan as needed, every four years.

The bill also focuses on “climate justice” – directing 40 percent of all state investments in climate and clean energy to “disadvantaged communities,” areas most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

Banning Toxic Chemicals

State lawmakers also passed a bill that would limit 1,4-dioxane in household products, to be effective at the end of 2022. 1,4-dioxane is an emerging contaminant that has been found in Long Island drinking water wells. It is more prevalent in Long Island’s water than anywhere else in the state and is classified by the EPA as a “likely carcinogen.”  The chemical is difficult and expensive to treat.

Another bill bans PFAS (Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances), commonly used in firefoating foam, from being used or manufactured in New York. PFAS is a toxic chemical that has been linked to liver problems, low birth weight, some cancers and other health issues.  It has been detected in groundwater supplies at several sites across Long Island.

Water Pollution Lawsuits

And finally, state lawmakers passed a bill that would allow public water authorities to take water polluters to court in New York.  Water authorities would low have three years to sue polluters once contamination is detected, instead of when the contamination occurred.

These pieces of legislation would make great strides for the protection of our air, land and water. These important bills now await a signature from Governor Andrew Cuomo.

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Blue-Green Algae Blooms Hit Southampton and East Hampton

A range of threats to Long Island’s waters

Before summer officially begins some Long Island residents are already being told not to swim or wade in certain waters. Mill Pond in Southampton and Wainscott Pond in East Hampton have been found with harmful cyanobacteria blooms, also known as blue-green algae, according to a sampling by Stony Brook University. Families in the area have been told to keep their pets and children away as contact with the water can lead to various illnesses like nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, skin, eye or throat irritation, or allergic reactions or breathing difficulties.

There are many threats to Long Island’s waters, including storm water runoff, which can wash fertilizers, pesticides, household cleaners, and motor oil from lawns, driveways, and streets into local streams and sewer systems, and failing and leaky septic systems that pollute our waters. Both can contribute to these toxic algal blooms that now show up regularly even in the bucolic, less densely developed areas of Long Island, and which remain a constant threat to our health and the environment.

Nitrogen from wastewater is one of the leading culprits of contamination, yet is controllable. There are several programs the Long Island Clean Water Partnership has helped to put in place to allow homeowners to upgrade or replace these systems with advanced wastewater treatment systems that can substantially reduce nitrogen pollution. Water is part of every Long Islander’s everyday life and we need to clean up what’s been polluted and protect it for future generations. Learn more about replacing your septic system by checking out Reclaim Our Water and joining the Long Island Clean Water Partnership!

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Long Island’s Drinking Water Found to be Most Contaminated in State

NYPIRG Releases Report on Statewide Contamination

During the week of Memorial Day, the New York Public Interest Research Group announced findings that were, perhaps, unsurprising to many Long Islanders. A study conducted on emerging contaminants throughout New York State found that Long Island has the highest concentration of dangerous chemicals in the state.

Using data collected between 2013 and 2016, the report’s primary conclusion was that one or more emerging contaminants are currently a direct threat to the drinking water supplies of 16 million New Yorkers. For Long Island, a total of 19 emerging contaminants were found to exist, including strontium, chlorate and chromium-6 and 1,4-dioxane, both likely carcinogens. Nassau County had the greatest share of contaminated areas on the island.

For those unfamiliar with “emerging contaminants”, these compounds are either only recently known, only recently detectable with available science or previously had not been present. Most frequently, emerging contaminants originate from industry, including spills and the disposal of wastewater or from personal care products. The emerging contaminant Long Islanders are likely most familiar with is 1,4-dioxane. It is believed that Long Island has the greatest concentrations of 1,4-dioxane in the entire country as a result of the past presence of the chemical in paints, primers and inks. Today, an estimated 46 percent of personal care products are found to have 1,4-dioxane present. 1,4-dioxane is known as a Synthetic Organic Compound as it is not a naturally occurring substance.

While this report certainly confirmed many Long Islanders’ fears on the declining quality of the island’s drinking water, it is important to note that most communities on Long Island do not have contaminated water. As Stony Brook Professor and Partnership member Dr. Christopher Gobler noted while speaking to Newsday, however, “It's a misnomer to lump all of Long Island's drinking water into a single category. If you were to do an honest comparison of the data for the water that Long Islanders drink, you'll find plenty of supplies that compare favorably with New York City." The most notable area of pure drinking water on Long Island is the Long Island Pine Barrens.

Overall, this report provides a drastic call to action for Long Islanders to join in the work of reversing the trend of declining water quality. Without continued efforts to improve the island’s environment, daily life in many communities will be irreparably changed forever. All life depends on clean and safe drinking water. We must make our efforts worthy of this fact.

For those interested in reading the NYPIRG’s full report, please visit nypirg.org. For more information on ways you can help save Long Island’s drinking water, check out our Take Action page. 

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Filtering Foods That Clean Up Our Waters

An increased need for innovative measures

Water quality has an impact on our environment, health, and economy. As every major bay, estuary, and harbor on Long Island is at risk, scientists have been working to determine new ways that can help address what continues to grow as a local and national crisis. For years, oysters have been thought of as a possible solution in some areas to help clean up our waters. But, these filter feeding bivalves, which have a tremendous benefit to the local economy, have also fallen victim to worsening water quality. Experimenting with a new aquaculture crop, Stony Brook University researchers and local farmers are beginning to harvest sugar kelp that had been planted in Moriches Bay this past winter and testing the waters for results.

Great Gun Shellfish Company owner Paul McCormick is an oyster farmer by trade whose farm filters millions of gallons of water daily. What he and researchers are looking into is if cultivating sugar kelp will help with oyster growing as well as filtering the estuary. This also offers the potential for oyster farmers to diversify their crop as it is a trending food source.

In a recent Newsday story, Dr. Chris Gobler said “cultivating the native seaweed also has environmental benefits. The crop sequesters nitrogen and phosphorous, and also captures carbon dioxide. Higher levels of carbon dioxide can lead to the acidification of waters, which can harm shellfish production. ‘We think the aquaculture of seaweeds represents another important tool for improving water quality on Long Island,’ he said. About 3 percent of the kelp is nitrogen.”

Looking into new aquaculture farming methods is just one of many ways people are working to slow the trend of nitrogen pollution and toxic algae blooms in Long Island’s water. Alternative wastewater treatment systems and Reclaim Our Waters' septic improvement program incentives can help fund these replacements for homeowners. Proposals for groundwater monitoring laws for mines is another way environmentalists, scientists, civic groups, and the public are taking action. You can help, too! Making simple changes at home, contacting elected officials, and joining the Long Island Clean Water Partnership can have a positive impact. Become a member today!

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Long Island Waters Off to Bad Start Ahead of Summer Season

This week, two waterbodies were closed to shellfishing after high levels of saxitoxin were detected in shellfish that had been harvested by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The two closures included: Meetinghouse Creek/Terry Creek in Riverhead and Northport Harbor/Steers Canal in Northport.

Saxitoxin is a neurotoxin that is 1,000-times more potent than cyanide and is made by the algae, Alexandrium. The overgrowth of this algae is fueled by nitrogen pollution. The dominant source of nitrogen pollution is human wastewater from septic systems and cesspools, but also from fertilizer use on lawns and farms. Nitrogen flows from our homes, into our underground drinking water aquifers, and then flows into our surface waters. Excess nitrogen fuels the growth of algae, producing large harmful algae blooms in our waters. Blooms of Alexandrium, also known as “red tides,” grow rapidly when fueled by nitrogen and synthesize high levels of saxitoxin.

Shellfish accumulate the toxin in their tissues and become contaminated – a threat to marine life and humans.  In 2015, hundreds of diamondback terrapin turtles washed up dead along the shores of Flanders Bay, after consuming saxitoxin-contaminated mussels. Humans that consume contaminated shellfish can develop paralytic shellfish-poisoning. Symptoms can range from tingling of the lips and tongue, to numbness of the face, neck and limbs, loss of muscular control, and difficulty breathing.  If you or anyone you know experiences these symptoms after eating shellfish, it should be treated as a medical emergency – call 911 or seek emergency care immediately.

Will these two events be indicative of what Long Island should expect this summer? Last summer, nearly every major waterbody across Long Island was impacted by a harmful algae bloom, oxygen-starved waters, or both.

Action by federal, state, county and local officials is needed now to reverse these trends.  We need stronger policies and standards to reduce the amount of sewage pollution entering our waters. We must improve, upgrade and modernize existing sewer and septic systems.

Join the Long Island Clean Water Partnership today to stay up-to-date on water quality-related news and to join us in our efforts to restore our water quality!


Source: Dr. Chris Gobler, Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences / Long Island Coastal Conservation Research Alliance

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Express Sessions: Water Quality

Examining water quality and how to protect it

Earlier this month, one of the founding member organizations of the Long Island Clean Water Partnership joined a panel for The Sag Harbor Express newspaper to discuss the state of our water quality. Group for the East End president Bob DeLuca was joined by representatives from Defend H2O, Concerned Citizens of Montauk, the Suffolk County Health Department, the Sag Harbor Zoning Board of Appeals, and Suffolk Country Legislator Bridget Fleming for the Express Sessions.

Among the biggest threats to water quality according to experts were failing septic systems, polluted stormwater runoff, fertilizers, pesticides, and more. In last week’s paper, DeLuca is quoted as saying, “You have to protect these resources. They don’t protect themselves. This region suffers from death by a thousand cuts. We have a slow drip, drip, drip of contamination and pollution, whether from septics or development projects.”

One of the timelier topics that came up when talking about the largest threats to one of only nine Special Groundwater Protection Areas on Long Island, which is critically important to the future quality of the region's drinking water, and what lies beneath the Sand Land mine in Bridgehampton. Scientific evidence has found that the controversial and polluting mine has been significantly polluting the groundwater. Recently, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), which had previously confirmed the findings and ordered mining activities to stop, entered into an agreement that grants the mine eight more years to operate. Members of the Partnership will continue to fight against this project and have begun taking steps to block the agreement

Other topics included the discussion of Long Island’s first brown tide in 1985, which has made headlines often in recent years, the use of methoprene spraying for mosquitos and its other biological impacts, and runoff associated with lawn care and landscaping activities. Audience members also shared their thoughts on the area’s water quality, including Noyac Civic Council president Elena Loreto, who passed around a petition to end the Sand Land mining permit.

Though informative and often grim, there is something that can be done to protect our water quality. Community action is essential. Making simple changes at home, contacting elected officials, and joining the Long Island Clean Water Partnership can bring about positive change. Become a member today!

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Let's Clean Up Long Island's Waters This Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day! If you live on Long Island, you know our way of life is all about the water! Long Island is unique in that it is a sole source aquifer region, meaning that we rely on our underground groundwater aquifers as the sole source of our drinking water. Beaches, bays and harbors often set the scene for some of our favorite memories. Each Long Islander likely has a special memory tied to the water – a fun day on the beach with family, watching a beautiful sunset, or catching your first fish at a local pier. Long Island’s water also supports a multi-billion dollar regional economy that attracts visitors from around the world. Long Island is pretty amazing!

Unfortunately, our water quality has been declining throughout the years. Pollution from sewage, pesticides and toxic chemicals all threaten our waters. Fortunately, we can fix it. But action by local, county and state officials is needed right now. One thing’s for sure: the cost of fixing the water problem now will be far less than the cost of destroying Long Island’s drinking water and bays and harbors.

Just as there so many reasons to love Long Island’s waters, there are just as many reasons why we should all work to clean up Long Island’s waters.

We need to clean up Long Island’s waters to protect the sole source of our drinking water. 2.8 million Long Islanders rely on clean water to drink, bathe in and cook with.

We need to clean up and protect our water resources to ensure a healthy habitat for the countless plant and animal species that call Long Island home – many of which are endangered or threatened.

We need to work to address our water quality problems in order to restore our fisheries and our once-vibrant shellfishing industry.

We need to clean up Long Island’s waters to ensure a clean, healthy and beautiful environment for future generations.

On this Earth Day, join in on the every day effort to restore Long Island’s water quality – become a member of the Long Island Clean Water Partnership today! Tackling the issue of water quality is one of Long Island’s biggest environmental challenges. We need everyone to take notice and call for action.

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Photo: The Independent 

DEC Makes a Poor Decision on Sand Land

Water-polluting mine will operate for 8 more years

Despite scientific evidence of groundwater contamination and public outcry, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) recently entered into a reckless agreement that benefits some of the biggest culprits of worsening water quality on the East End. 

Under the terms of the settlement, the controversial and polluting sand mine known as “Sand Land” in Bridgehampton has been granted eight more years to operate. This long and drawn-out closure agreement was made in complete secrecy and without any input from the town of Southampton. the agreement is also contradictory to the Suffolk County Department of Health Services (SCDHS) groundwater investigation, which showed significant groundwater contamination beneath the property and is at complete odds with virtually every water quality protection policy adopted over the last 30 years. If this agreement proceeds, it will set a dangerous precedent for Long Island’s sole-source aquifer, which supplies our drinking water, and is increasingly vulnerable to pollution.

Based on potential pollution concerns, SCDHS initiated a groundwater investigation at the Sand Land site, installing groundwater monitoring wells in May 2015. The investigation tested 21 monitoring wells in and around the site and found heavy metals including iron and manganese, as well as nitrates at concentrations significantly exceeding drinking water and standards in multiple wells. Manganese exceeded the standards by almost 100 times and iron by over 200 times. 
The SCDHS concluded that the vegetative waste management activities on the Sand Land site have had significant adverse impacts to the groundwater. Data from wells installed on the site suggest the presence of downward vertical groundwater flow component, indicating this is a vital groundwater protection area. This also suggests that contaminants released on the site may flow into deeper portions of the aquifer.
These conclusions, which were reviewed and signed-off on by the DEC, were made public in 2018. The DEC even ordered mining activities at Sand Land to stop. Though, Sand Land continued to operate
Founding members of the Long Island Clean Water Partnership have long fought alongside neighbors, environmentalists, and elected officials to shut down Sand Land. We will challenge the DEC’s decision and continue to fight for its closing. Our drinking water needs to be protected. You can help by joining the Long Island Clean Water Partnership today!

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Happy St. Patrick's Day - Green water isn't always fun!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! We’re here to remind you that green water on days other than March 17th is probably a bad sign. Green water is usually a sign that a toxic blue-green algae bloom has developed within a waterbody. Last summer, 25 lakes and ponds across Long Island were afflicted with a toxic blue-green algae bloom. In fact, Suffolk County leads the entire state with the highest record number of lakes with blue-green algae, more than the other 61 counties in New York – not something to be proud of.

Blue-green algae grows in warm and nutrient-rich waters. On Long Island, nitrogen pollution is the main cause of these harmful algae blooms. Nitrogen pollution from sewage, most notably aging sewer and septic systems, flows from our drinking water aquifers into our surface waters, damaging salt marshes, causing harmful algae blooms, reducing fish and shellfish populations and closing our beaches.  Unfortunately, several different types of algae blooms occur during Long Island’s summer months, causing our waters to turn many different colors. However, blue-green algae blooms are among the most toxic. These blooms can produce toxins that are extremely harmful to people and pets. On several occasions in Suffolk County, dogs have died from playing in and consuming water from waterbodies contaminated with toxins produced by blue-green algae.

Be aware and stay informed as we gear up for another Long Island summer! If a waterbody is impaired by a blue-green algae bloom, there will often be signs warning beachgoers to stay out of the water. If there are no posted signs and the water looks like pea soup or like there has been a green paint spill on the water, avoid swimming, boating and recreating, and keep pets out of the water as well. Suspected blooms should be reported to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation by emailing HABsInfo@dec.ny.gov.

Fortunately, stronger policies and standards can reduce the amount of sewage pollution in our local waters. We can improve, upgrade and modernize existing sewer and septic systems. With the luck of the Irish, and action by local, county and state officials, we can protect and restore our water quality for our children and grandchildren. Become a member of the Long Island Clean Water Partnership to stay updated on our campaign to restore our waters.

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Video Highlights from "Water We Going To Do?" 7th Annual Conference

Did you miss our annual conference? Check out the highlights!

Last October, the Long Island Clean Water Partnership held its seventh annual “Water We Going To Do?” Conference.  The conference informed Long Islanders about the progress made toward improving drinking and surface water quality, across Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Experts provided an update on the water quality improvement campaign's progress to date, highlighted success stories in other areas, discussed clean water projects currently happening on Long Island, and set the stage for what needs to happen in the next year. Speakers included government officials, scientists, business leaders and environmentalists.

More than 200 Long Islanders filled the room to hear the latest on the effort to restore the Island’s water quality. Did you miss it? No worries! You can catch highlights of the conference, which were featured on the Long Island Pine Barrens Society’s television program.

In part one of the coverage, you will hear from:

  • Ryan Wallace, from the Gobler Lab at Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, with an overview of Long Island’s water quality impairments
  • Ty Fuller of the Suffolk County Water Authority, on emerging contaminants appearing in Long Island’s waters, their associated treatment methods and their costs
  • Chris Schubert of the United States Geological Survey, on Long Island groundwater sustainability
  • Mary Anne Taylor of CDM Smith and consultant for Suffolk County, with an update on Suffolk County’s subwatershed mapping
  • Suffolk County Officials Peter Scully and Justin Jobin, on the status of the County’s septic replacement program

In part two of the coverage, you will hear from:

  • Keynote speaker, Dr. Christopher Patrick from Texas A&M University, on the successes of the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Program and how they can be applied to Long Island
  • Researchers from Stony Brook’s Center for Clean Water Technology, Molly Graffam & Samantha Roberts, with an update on new nitrogen-removing technology that is being researched at the institute
  • James Tierney of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and John Cameron of the Long Island Regional Planning Council, on the status of the Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan
  • Brian Schneider on Nassau County’s water initiatives
  • Mary Wilson from Southampton Town, on the success of the town’s Community Preservation Fund water improvement program

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Monitoring Sand Mines for the Sake of Our Health

 Stop groundwater contamination at the source

As emerging contaminants and sources of pollution in Long Island’s groundwater continue to be identified, the need for action to protect and clean up drinking water supplies is stronger than ever. Within the past several years, the Suffolk County Department of Health Services and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation have documented significant groundwater contamination and risks of contamination associated with activities at sand mines and vegetative waste processing facilities. Now, we are urging local governments to act and establish local laws that will improve groundwater monitoring and hold these facilities accountable.

Elected officials have already taken action in response to this emerging contamination source. Last year, Assemblyman Fred Thiele and Senator Ken LaValle passed legislation signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo that will now allow local governments to impose groundwater monitoring requirements on state-regulated sand mines and mine reclamation. This is a crucial step in the right direction as contamination from facilities, like the “Sand Land” mine in Southampton, have raised significant public health and environmental concerns. 

As part of the Long Island Clean Water Partnership founding members’ ongoing work to protect and restore the health of our ground and surface waters, we are urging local governments across the East End of Long Island to adopt and enforce local laws that would that would require monitoring of groundwater quality beneath active mines or mine reclamation activities. 

It is our drinking water, environment, and health at risk. Residents in the towns of East Hampton and Southampton can help by asking their elected town boards to establish these laws to protect their health and the environment. These actions will inspire other towns across Long Island to take notice and take action with other facilities contributing to similar contamination. Join the Long Island Clean Water Partnership today!

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Sewer Projects Approved in Babylon and Mastic

Supporting water quality improvement projects

This January, voters in Babylon and Mastic flocked to the polls to vote on important issues, including clean water. On the ballot was a referendum for two sewer projects that will cover 6,500 homes, making this Suffolk County’s largest expansion since the 1970s. Understanding the value of investing in water quality improvement, 77% of voters said yes!

$388 million in federal and state grants will be used to hook up homes in Babylon and Mastic to sewers and remove other sewage from our waters. These projects will improve residential quality of life while also helping to protect two of Long Island’s most fragile rivers – Carlls River and Forge River. Learn more about these two ecologically important rivers and why they need our protection here

By approving these projects, voters made a strong showing of how important water quality is to them and Long Island. Voting in favor of this referendum makes these projects the largest action to protect local water in more than 40 years! Long Islanders’ commitment to protect and restore water quality will set an example for future efforts to invest in Long Island’s water. 

The Long Island Clean Water Partnership was proud to endorse these efforts in Babylon and Mastic. This is just the beginning. You can help support opportunities for clean water investments by joining the Long Island Clean Water Partnership and by urging elected officials to support additional investments in waste water technology across Long Island. Thank you for joining us in the fight to protect and restore Long Island’s water.

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Stay Connected to Nature in Winter

It’s that time of year again where all of us are suffering from cabin fever. It’s cold outside and we are inclined to stay indoors, but the end result is boredom and isolation. Most of us wait until the first spring-like day to finally get outside and stretch our legs. However, you don’t have to wait that long! If you don’t mind bundling-up with a couple extra layers, there are plenty of opportunities to get outside during winter and enjoy Long Island’s beaches!

Here are some ideas:

Go on a seal walk or seal cruise. Learn about the different species of seals that inhabit Long Island and observe them in their natural habitat. Group for the East End and the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society offer seal cruises throughout the winter. The Coastal Research and Education Society of Long Island conducts seal walks throughout the winter. These educational tours will also inform you on how you can help conserve the marine environment.

Grab a pair of binoculars and head to the beach to bird watch. There are many unique and beautiful feathered friends to observe throughout the winter – common loons, great egrets, marsh hawks, long-tailed ducks, snowy owls & so much more! Download the Audubon app on your phone to help you identify the birds you see.

Watch a winter sunrise or sunset. Winter sunrises and sunsets are more spectacular than those in the summer. In the summer, there is more dust and pollution particles in the air, making it more hazy. The clear and crisp winter air offers up more vibrant colors. Take along a camera or even your smartphone, and practice your landscape photography.

Visit the Fire Island Lighthouse. Climb the tour and check out a 360-degree panorama of winter beach scenery. If it’s particularly cold, the Great South Bay will freeze up and create stunning visuals.

Don’t wait for the warm weather - cure your cabin fever and fight off those winter blues by bundling up and getting outside! You’ll be amazed by how refreshed you’ll feel.

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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 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 (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!

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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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%.

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.

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

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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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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.

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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.

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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!

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Long Island Sound Watershed

What is a Watershed?

What do those signs on the Long Island Expressway mean?

In November 2015, new signs began popping up along the Long Island Expressway alerting drivers of the watershed they were driving through. These signs read “Entering the… Long Island Sound, Peconic River or Carmans River Watersheds.” These signs are part of an important awareness and education effort that had long been advocated for by environmental groups and had finally been supported and implemented by the New York State Department of Transportation.

All of Long Island is a watershed, or an area of land that drains to a stream, river, lake, bay or wetland.  This also means that all of our activity on land has the potential to impact our waters – unfortunately, various forms of pollution on land’s surface can runoff and interfere with the health of our watersheds. Sewage from aging or poorly maintained septic systems, lawn fertilizers, pet waste, car fluids, toxic household chemicals and garbage can all be carried into our water if we’re not careful.

These signs aim to protect our watersheds by reminding us that on Long Island, we must all make a concerted effort to protect our waters by taking careful actions on land to reduce pollution. Maintain your septic system annually; eliminate toxic pesticides and fertilizers or choose organic and biodegradable products when caring for your lawn; pick-up after your pets; fix any fuel or fluid leaks from your car and don’t wash hazardous materials off your driveway; and never litter or dump garbage, cigarettes, leaves or chemicals into storm drains.

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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The Scoop on Pet Poop

Why picking up after your pet helps water quality

As spring progresses, Long Islanders are sure to be spending more time outdoors with their dogs at the beach, in the park, on hiking trails, or even just hanging out in the backyard. "Man's best friend" needs this time to exercise and play, and also to relieve themselves. Aside from common courtesy, there are some very important reasons why you should pick up after your pet. Here is the scoop on pet poop

1. The average pooch excretes 3/4 of a pound of waste per day - that's 274 pounds per year
2. Biodegradable doggie bags are not enough for pet waste - they have to be discarded in a trash bin to mitigate concerns of environmental impacts
3. The best way to dispose of dog poop is to flush it down the toilet

Pet waste is high in nitrogen and can contain disease-causing parasites and bacteria, which may end up in Long Island's water if left on the ground. Pet waste on the beach and along the roadside can easily wash into our bays, creeks, and harbors, as stormwater runoff after rain and snow melt flow across yards, parks, trails, and more. Excess nitrogen can lead to water quality conditions that kill eel grass, reduce nitrogen, and cause harmful algal blooms. Did you know that in addition to killing fish and making people sick, algal blooms may also be lethal to pets?

Being a responsible pet owner and picking up after your pet is a simple way to help reduce your impact on Long Island water quality. Be sure to carry extra bags with you when walking your dog and share with others when needed. Dispose of these bags by leaving them in a trash bin or flushing the waste down the toilet - without the bag of course! Remind friends and family of the impacts of pet waste on the environment. Also, never compost pet waste.

Help mitigate some of the harmful effects of pet waste on water quality, and pick up after your pet to keep our beaches, parks, and trails clean and safe for everyone to enjoy. Take action and join the Long Island Clean Water Partnership today! 

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