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Long Island drinking water is at risk from common household cleaners, old septic systems, and contamination from prescription drugs. Take action now to protect our drinking water.

Long Island drinking water: How do we protect it?

Our families rely on clean Long Island drinking water

There is no way around it - we need water to survive. We live on an island, and it is critical to our well-being that our water is safe for drinking on Long Island. Our children and grandchildren often drink from school water fountains, we brush our teeth from the tap, and our dogs may even drink from the toilet, despite our best efforts. But how safe is it?

Poor water quality continues to threaten Long Island drinking water, and also impacts everything from shellfisheries to leisurely activities like boating and swimming. There are solutions outside of purchasing bottled water (which we don't recommend - opt for reusable bottles and limit waste!) to protect our drinking water at home.

Go green at home by reducing the use of common household contaminants. Pesticides, fertilizers, toxic cleaners, and chemical products are already bad news for humans, pets, and wildlife. When used or disposed of improperly, these items show up in our waterways, worsening the water quality and drinking water on Long Island. Opt for green or homemade products instead that are just as effective.

Inspect and replace your septic system as needed. Old septic systems have had a direct negative impact on Long Island drinking water, resulting in increased nitrogen pollution. The Community Preservation Fund extension and expansion now allows for 20% of funds to be used for water quality improvement projects in the five East End towns. Long Islanders in Suffolk County can take advantage of a septic system replacement through a grant rebate program.

Properly dispose of medications and substances through disposal programs on the East End, and in Suffolk and Nassau Counties. When flushed down the toilet, prescription and over-the-counter medications can contaminate our drinking water, as well as our bays and harbors. Medication drop boxes are safe and discreet, and also help prevent drug abuse, harm to children and pets, and others.

Tell your elected officials to take a stand on clean water. This affects them, too. Governor Cuomo and some New York State legislators have already taken proactive steps toward Long Island water quality, but we need more of our elected officials on board. Find legislators in your area and tell them the time to act is now.

What we need is simple - clean Long Island drinking water. How get it will take more work, and we will continue to fight until every last drop is safe to drink. 

Join the Long Island Clean Water Partnership today and take action to protect Long Island's drinking water!

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Long Island Municipalities Receive $688 million to Protect South Shore Estuary Reserve

NYS Funds Programs to Improve Water Quality and Protect Public Health

Good news for the South Shore Estuary Reserve! New York State has funded several municipal projects that will reduce pollution entering waterways, restore shellfish populations, improve coastal resiliency, and protect the overall health of the SSER.

The SSER, which extends for over 70 miles along the Atlantic shoreline of Long Island, from Reynolds Channel in Nassau County to the eastern shores of Shinnecock Bay in Suffolk County, is not only an invaluable resource but provides recreation, tourism, and economic opportunities for millions of Long Islanders.  To protect this resource, the New York State Legislature created the South Shore Estuary Reserve Council in 1993. The Council was charged with developing and ultimately implementing a comprehensive management plan for the estuary, which continues to guide how we deal with issues like water quality protection, living resources, public use, water related economy, education and stewardship.

Several of the projects funded this year will not only benefit the SSER but also compliment county and state level programs, including Suffolk County’s efforts to move from outdated septics and cesspools toward advanced wastewater treatment systems, the Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan, and ongoing state efforts to restore clams and oysters, protect salt marshes, and improve coastal resiliency on the south shore. Some of the projects that received funding include:

  • Freeport Community Development Agency and Operation SPLASH will install 37 catch basin inserts along heavy traffic areas near the industrial park in southeast Freeport; and near Merrick Road.
  • Nassau County Department of Public Works and the Nassau County Soil and Water Conservation District will remove Water Chestnut (Trapa natans), an invasive plant, from Massapequa Lake.
  • Town of Brookhaven and Seatuck Environmental Association will install an innovative/alternative onsite wastewater treatment system (I/A OWTS) at Corey Beach Park and Shirley Beach Park.
  • Town of Brookhaven and Cornell Cooperative Extension will implement an eelgrass restoration project on the south side of Bellport and Moriches bays.
  • Town of Hempstead will create two living shorelines to stabilize areas of salt marsh in Hempstead Bay
  • Town of Islip will install two algae bioreactors in the Town of lslip Shellfish Hatchery to increase algae production.
  • Village of Patchogue will retrofit eleven outfall pipes along the Patchogue River to remove sediment and trash from stormwater.

You can find a full list of projects here and make sure you are signed for the LI Clean Water Partnership’s alerts to get updates on efforts to protect the SSER.

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How to Protect Long Island’s Water on Giving Tuesday

Join in on the global day of giving

Giving Tuesday, celebrated on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, is a globally-recognized day of giving. The day kicks-off the charitable season and encourages people to get involved in their community, find a cause they love, and donate their money, time or voice.

The Long Island Clean Water Partnership is a coalition of Long Island conservation, business, civic and scientific organizations, who are dedicated to protecting and restoring Long Island water quality. Tackling Long Island’s water quality issues is one of the biggest environmental and civic challenges we’ve ever faced – we need everyone to lend a helping hand.

There are many ways to get involved in the effort to restore Long Island’s water this Giving Tuesday –

Become a Member

If you haven’t done so already, register to become a member of the Long Island Clean Water Partnership to stay updated all year long on the latest on water quality improvement efforts, forums, and actions you can take.

Donate to Long Island Environmental Groups

There are many worthy environmental and civic groups working to protect Long Island’s water – Check out our members, read up on their missions, and consider donating to one of their worthy causes! Many groups are non-profit organizations, making them perfect recipients for your end-of-year giving!

Want to encourage friends and family to donate? Consider raising money for a group via Facebook!

Follow us on Social Media

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/cleanwaterpartnership/?fref=ts

Twitter - @LICleanH2O

Share one of our posts and help educate your friends on Long Island water.

Write Your Elected Officials & Make Your Voice Heard

Write your town, county, state and federal elected officials and tell them why a healthy environment is important to you and urge them to address Long Island’s water quality problems.

Never miss an update from the Long Island Clean Water Partnership - sign up for blog email updates here.

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Long Island water is being polluted by nitrogen pollution from old septic systems. We can improve Long Island water by replacing septic systems. Rebate programs are also available.

Breaking Down the Long Island Water Crisis

What's wrong with Long Island water, and how to fix it.

The conversation about Long Island water isn't going to end anytime soon, but what does it all mean? Here is a breakdown of the Long Island water crisis, and how you can help fight it.

The problem: Excess nitrogen is choking our local Long Island water. The amount of excess nitrogen in our local waters has increased so dramatically over the last 25 years that our marine ecosystems are on the brink of total collapse. If left unchecked, the environmental, public health, and economic costs would be disastrous.

The biggest culprit: Old, leaky septic systems. Scientists have identified old, leaky septic systems as one of the worst offenders in polluting Long Island water. The excess nitrogen seeps directly into our bays and ponds, where its effects can lead to the death of massive numbers of marine plants and animals, and make it unsafe for people (and pets) to swim, eat shellfish, and go boating.

The solution: Replace old septic systems. Members of the Long Island Clean Water Partnership, scientists, elected officials, engineers, and civic organizations have determined:

1. The old septic systems must be upgraded or replaced by high tech ones that substantially reduce nitrogen.
2. They must be affordable for residents and businesses.
3. The public must be educated on the importance of replacing old systems.

The largest clean water action investment in decades is now clearly underway. Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature approved $75 million for septic system replacement in this year's budget and over $2 billion for critical clean Long Island water infrastructure across the state. New septic system replacement rebate programs in Suffolk County, and local septic system rebate programs in the towns of East Hampton and Southampton are also underway.

We know we have a long way to go, but thanks to the commitment of Long Islanders and their elected leaders we're making the right move to start combating nitrogen pollution to protect Long Island water.

Join the Long Island Clean Water Partnership and protect Long Island water today!

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Scallop Season Has Begun

How’s the Bay Scallop Harvest Been This Year?

If you cherish the sweet, juicy and delicious flavor of a Peconic Bay scallop, perhaps you’ve been anticipating the opening of scallop season this week. But will there be scallop dinners in abundance this year? Many of Long Island’s bays and harbors experienced harmful algal blooms this summer, including the longest and most intense brown tide bloom in recorded history.

All that water pollution means that shellfish like scallops and clams are struggling to survive in local waters. The occurrence of these events such as brown tide, have led to the collapse of critical marine habitats such as seagrass, major shell-fisheries on Long Island, and the coastal wetlands that help protect waterfront communities from the damaging impacts of storms. 

Unfortunately, a decline in shellfish isn’t the end of the problem. There’s a cascading effect because shellfish also filter the water and clean it while they feed. Left unchecked, the algae that shellfish eat start to bloom out of control.
Some algae produce toxins that accumulate in filter feeding shellfish which can poison people or wildlife that eat them. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) increasingly monitors and seasonally closes shellfish beds due to algae blooms. Long Island’s water pollution problems are unfortunately getting worse and more widespread.

The majority of Long Island’s income is from tourism, and if people can’t swim and play in the water, or partake in its bounty, we all lose a big part of our local economy.

What’s the fate of Long Island’s waters? Long Island’s waters need a break!

In locations where feasible, sewage treatment plants can be upgraded to remove more nitrogen. And everywhere, fertilizer and pesticide application can be significantly reduced – including starting with your own home.

New kinds of septic systems safely remove far more nitrogen from human waste than current septic systems and cesspools. They are proven to work around the country and around the world. It’s a matter of bringing that industry here and providing a funding source for people to upgrade to these treatment systems.

For East End residents in particular, the Community Preservation Fund (CPF) can help improve local waters that are threatened by nitrogen pollution by allowing up to 20% of revenue to be used to improve water quality. This could raise $700 million for local water quality improvement projects and will continue the Community Preservation Fund’s successful land protection work. So far, 3 of 5 of the East End towns are making progress toward allocating funding for this critical work.

You can Long Island’s water pollution problems by having your cesspool pumped every 2-3 years and by reducing the amount of fertilizer used on your lawn!

Before going shellfishing, it's imperative to check that areas are safe before harvesting. Visit the Department of Environmental Conservation’s website.

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Long Island Clean Water Partnership honored with award

Dr. Nancy Douzinas Discusses Clean Water Partnership

Dr. Nancy Douzinas, President of the Rauch Foundation, Discusses the Benefits of Partnerships

Recently, the Long Island Clean Water Partnership was honored with an Environmental Achievement Award at the Pine Barrens Society’s 40th Anniversary Environmental Awards Gala.  Dr. Nancy Douzinas, president of the Rauch Foundation, presented the award to the Partnership and shared these thoughtful remarks on the benefits and successes of partnerships, coalitions and mergers on Long Island. Join us in protecting Long Island's water, become a member today.

Never miss a post from the Long Island Clean Water Partnership, sign up for blog updates here.

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King Kullen’s Don’t Flush Your Drugs Program Safely Disposes of 7,000+ Pounds of Pharmaceuticals

Take your unused medications to a King Kullen pharmacy for free and protect Long Island’s water resources.

Pharmaceutical contamination is a growing threat to waterways throughout the nation. Trace amount of pharmaceuticals, including antibiotics and pain killers, have been detected in trace amounts in Suffolk County drinking water wells. For decades, residents were told to simply flush unwanted medications, but now we know better. Providing residents with convenient, safe pharmaceutical disposal options is essential to prevent the flushing of unused medications and protect Long Island’s drinking and surface waters.

In 2015, King Kullen installed Medsafe boxes in all 11 of their pharmacies, and last year they expanded their program to be able to collect narcotics as well. Over the last three years, the Don’t Flush Your Drugs program has collected over 7,000 POUNDS of unused drugs. There is clearly a great need for safe drug disposal options on Long Island, and the amount of medication being brought to King Kullen has been steadily increasing as public awareness of this program grows.

The King Kullen drop boxes were installed with funding from New York State, and their program is a successful model of NYS working with local businesses and stakeholders to provide the public with free, convenient safe disposal options. King Kullen also stands as the first supermarket pharmacy in New York State to be a certified collector of narcotics by the Federal DEA, and will inspire others to follow their path.

Don’t Flush Your Drugs is advertised across Long Island in King Kullen locations and on Citizens Campaign for the Environment’s website, but expanding public knowledge of this program is crucial. With funding from a NYS grant, the King Kullen program will soon be advertised at 6 movie theaters across Long Island.  Starting November 17th, these ads will focus on grabbing the attention of Long Island moviegoers and attract them to the take-back program rather than letting pharmaceuticals sit in medicine cabinets in the reach of family members, or at risk of being flushed.

Locations where Don’t Flush Your Drugs advertisements will be displayed:

United Artists Farmingdale
United Artists Hicksville
Mattituck Cinema
Movieland Cinema in Coram
Sayville Cinema

Look out for the ads at a theater near you! For more information on where you can safely drop off unused pharmaceuticals, please visit: https://www.citizenscampaign.org/campaigns/pharmaceutical-disposal/nassau-suffolk-locations.asp

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Long Island Water System

Long Island's Water: Where Does It Come From?

Public Long Island Water vs. Private Wells

Aquifers – that’s where our Long Island water comes from. Whether a public water supply company provides your water or you have your own private well on your property, our only source of Long Island drinking water comes directly out of our aquifer system located beneath us.  

Our aquifer system was formed some 60-65 million years ago and is composed of sand and gravel with clay layers separating the aquifers.   Long Island water is contained in three major aquifers; the Lloyd Aquifer, containing water that is up to several thousands of years old, the Magothy Aquifer, containing water up to 1,000 years old and the shallowest aquifer known as the Upper Glacial Aquifer.  Water supply companies mostly draw water from the Magothy Aquifer, while many private wells on individual properties draw from the shallowest, Upper Glacial Aquifer.  Aquifers are recharged by precipitation, which slowly works its way through the ground beneath us.  Long Island’s sandy soil helps filter and purify the water. 

Since our aquifer system is literally our only source of drinking water, it’s imperative that we keep it clean.  Unfortunately, Long Island water is susceptible to contamination from a number of sources such as pesticides, fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, nitrogen from septic systems and sewage treatment plants, volatile organic compounds from historical waste or illegal dumping and much more. 

Regardless of where our Long Island water comes from, we all would like a piece of mind to ensure that it is safe to drink.  Read below for some of the differences between private wells and public water.

Private Wells
According to the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, there are an estimated 40,000 – 45,000 private water wells in use in Suffolk County alone.  Private well owners have their wells contained on their property.  Water from private wells is not routinely tested unless the individual homeowner chooses to do so.  However, it is prudent to have private well water tested since the water is more than likely coming from the shallow, Upper Glacial Aquifer and thus more susceptible to contaminants. 

For more information on how to have your well water tested contact the following:

Suffolk County - contact the Suffolk County Department of Health Services

Nassau County – contact the Health Department of Bureau of Water Supply

Public Water
Public water is supplied by a number of companies across Long Island.  Public Long Island water is often pulled from the Magothy Aquifer, tested and often treated.  Additionally, it is routinely monitored for contaminants.  Public water supply companies produce water quality reports available to the public.  To access these reports, click on the following:

Suffolk County Water Authority - https://www.scwa.com/about/wq_reports/

Water Authority of Western Nassau - http://www.wawnc.org/cm/index.php?option=com_weblinks&catid=30&Itemid=23

*If you are not a customer of the Suffolk County Water Authority or the Water Authority of Western Nassau, contact your water provider for additional information.

The Long Island Clean Water Partnership is committed to protecting Long Island water quality.  Sign up today and learn more about what we are doing to help protect this precious resource.  http://www.longislandcleanwaterpartnership.org/register.aspx

By: Jennifer Hartnagel, Group for the East End

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Getting to Know the Community Preservation Fund

Learn about the East End’s Community Preservation Fund
Long Island has some of the most environmentally conscious residents that can be found anywhere in the world. No policy or proposal can perhaps represent this fact better than the almost unanimous support that has been given to the East End’s “Community Preservation Fund”. This fund, originally approved in 1998 and funded through a two percent tax real estate transfer tax, has continued to have had unprecedented support from the communities that it serves. With the fund’s dedication to purchasing farmland and wooded parcels in order to prevent further development on some of Long Island’s most delicate lands, it is no wonder that this fund has far beyond exceeded $1 billion and the protection of more than 10,000 acres during its 19 year existence

Most impressively, however, was the 2016 referendum that saw over 76 percent of voters in the five East End towns support the extension of the Community Preservation Fund’s mission to protecting water quality, along with open space and farmland, until 2050. Through this vote, residents enabled the fund to reserve 20 percent of all of its revenue for water quality initiatives. This translates into the allowance of an estimated $20 million annually or $700 million in total for water quality improvement projects throughout more than 40 percent of Suffolk County’s land! From helping to reduce runoff to working to defend natural habitats of vulnerable wildlife, the Community Preservation Fund can serve as a example of how the display of support for environmental efforts from local communities can guarantee a brighter (and cleaner) future for all. 

However, the time for citizen input in support of the Community Preservation Fund has not ended! The Community Preservation Fund is subject to annual independent audits and public hearings to ensure the appropriate use of funds for the betterment of the communities that you love. In order to ensure that open space and clean water is protected, residents in each of the five East End towns must remain engaged in the political process. From attending the hearings themselves to remaining in contact with public officials, the Community Preservation Fund relies on the actions of residents like you to help it pursue its mission! 

To learn more about the Community Preservation Fund, visit the LI Clean Water Partnership's page at http://www.longislandcleanwaterpartnership.org/CPF 

By: Ryan Wolf, Long Island Pine Barrens Society

Stay up to date on all things water - Sign up for blog email updates from the Long Island Clean Water Partnership here.

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A Summer of Discontent in Long Island's Coastal Waters

New 2017 Report Shows Excessive Nitrogen Continues to Fuel Hypoxia, Toxic Algae Blooms threatening Public Health and Water Quality 

Scientists at Stony Brook University have completed their assessment of water quality in Long Island’s estuaries in 2017 and the news is not good -- during the months of May through August, every major bay and estuary across Long Island was afflicted by a toxic algae blooms or oxygen starved waters or both.  Heavy loads of nitrogen from sewage and fertilizers have been cited as the ultimate cause of these disturbing events.

It began with paralytic shellfish poisoning events in May and ended with a harmful rust tide that continues across the east end Long Island. In between, the longest and most intense brown tide bloom in recorded history, toxic blue-green algae in 14 lakes across the Island, seaweeds on ocean beaches, oxygen depleted waters found at more than 20 locations from Hempstead to East Hampton.  The confluence of all of these events in all these places across Long Island in a single season is a clear sign of nitrogen pollution.

Another disturbing occurrence were the dead zones across Long Island. Dead zones are regions of low or no oxygen and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation mandates that marine waters should never go below three milligrams of dissolved oxygen per liter to allow fish to survive.  Through the summer, the majority of sites sampled did not meet these criteria.  The data reveals that that many sites are not suitable habitats for sustaining fish and shellfish.

Equally alarming was the large number of new water bodies with toxic blue-green algal blooms discovered in 2017.  While several of the locations such as Long Island’s largest lake, Lake Ronkonkoma, have had chronic problems, some of the 15 sites with toxic blue-green algal blooms experienced these events for the first time.  In 2016, Suffolk County had more lakes with blue-green algal blooms than any other of the 64 counties in New York State, a distinction that is likely to be repeated in 2017.  Blue-green algae make toxins that can be harmful to humans and animals and were linked to dog illnesses in multiple years and a dog death in 2012.

And all of these events can be traced back to rising levels of nitrogen coming from land and entering Long Island’s surface waters.  The largest sources of nitrogen are household sewage and fertilizers which are washed into groundwater that seeps in bays, harbors, and estuaries. Nitrogen stimulates toxic algal blooms that can, in turn, remove oxygen from bottom waters as they decay. 

The map generated by the report shows precisely where on Long Island various algal blooms and low oxygen zones developed during the summer of 2017.  Events depicted include algal blooms caused by Alexandrium causing paralytic shellfish poisoning and shellfish bed closures, rust tides caused by the algae Cochlodinium, brown tides caused by Aureococcus, toxic blue green algae blooms commonly caused by Microcystis, and seaweed blooms caused by Ulva.  The map also depicts hypoxic or low oxygen zones which are dangerous to marine life in Long Island Sound, Smithtown Bay, and more than 20 other locations across Long Island.

However, there is some good news. Commitments by Governor Cuomo, Commissioner Seggos and the Long Island legislative delegation to this issue and their investments will make measurable gains in water quality improvement. State, County and local leadership to advance water protection has provided new and unprecedented resources to address this issue including;

  • $2.5 billion allocated in the NY State budget for water quality, including funding for septic system rebates, sewer infrastructure upgrades and source water protection
  • $300 million in the Environmental Protection Fund
  • $5 million for the Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan.
  • The Governor established a new $10 million shellfish restoration effort for LI.
  • The US EPA is crafting a Long Island Sound Nitrogen Action Plan
  • Nassau County is advancing the consolidation of Long Beach STP to Bay Park and utilizing an existing ocean outfall pipe
  • By the end of the year Suffolk County will have approved 12 different waste water treatment technologies.
  • Suffolk County’s grant program to allow homeowners $10,000 to replace aging septics with new waste water treatment technologies.
  • The 5 East End Towns have established a reoccurring fund for water quality protection.
  • Town of East Hampton and Town of Southampton passed legislation requiring new construction and large scale reconstruction to use modernize waste water treatment technology.

The problem of nitrogen pollution in Long Island’s waters is not going to be fixed immediately. But there are solutions in sight. To learn more about how you can help, visit http://longislandcleanwaterpartnership.org/content.aspx?page=athome

By: Kara Jackson, The Nature Conservancy

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Why We Should Protect Long Island Estuaries

Facts About the Three Largest Long Island Estuaries

September 16th through the 23rd is National Estuaries Week.  Since 1988, National Estuaries Week provides an excellent opportunity to celebrate our Long Island estuaries.  What better a time to learn more about Long Island estuaries than now?

An estuary is a coastal body of water where freshwater from rivers, streams and groundwater mixes with salt water from the ocean.  Estuaries are usually protected by barrier islands or peninsulas, but are influenced by the tides.  Their habitats can encompass shallow open water, saltwater marshes, swamps, sandy beaches, mud and sand flats, rocky shore, tidal pools and seagrass beds.  Estuarine environments are often touted as some of the most ecologically productive on earth.  Estuaries like our Long Island estuaries support unique communities of plants and animals that are adapted for this specific environment.   

Aside from their ecological importance, Long Island estuaries provide us with economic and recreational benefits that shape our way of life.

Here are some unique facts attributed to the three largest Long Island estuary systems.

Long Island Sound

  • Designated an “Estuary of National Significance” in 1987
  • Home to 1,200 species of invertebrates
  • Home to 170 species of finfish
  • Contains 600 miles of coastline
  • Contributes a whopping 9.4 billion dollars annually to the economy
  • Average depth is 63 feet 

South Shore Estuary Reserve

  • Encompasses 173 square miles of south shore bays and wetlands from Reynolds Channel in Nassau County to the eastern shores of Shinnecock Bay in Suffolk County
  • Formed during the past 5,000 years
  • Average depth is 15 feet
  • The South Shore Estuary Reserve Act was passed by the NYS Legislature in 2001 to protect and manage the estuary system
  • Contains more impaired surface waters due to nitrogen loading than any other region in the entire state.
  • There are more designated “Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitats” found in this system than any other region of the state. 

Peconic Estuary

  • Situated between the north and south forks of Long Island, includes over 158,000 acres of surface water.
  • Designated an “Estuary of National Significance” in 1993
  • The Peconic Estuary Program was formed to manage a comprehensive management plan to help restore and preserve the estuary’s resources
  • Hosts a mixture of coastal and underwater habitats that support 140 globally and locally rare species
  • The Peconic Estuary and its watershed have bee identified by The Nature Conservancy as on of the “Last Great Places” in the western hemisphere
  • The New York State Department of State has designated over 90 areas as significant coastal fish and wildlife habitats

Do you want to learn more about Long Island estuaries? Join the Long Island Clean Water Partnership today and find out what you can to do protect these important habitats.

By Jenn Hartnagel, Group for the East End

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Chris Gobler Discusses State of Long Island Water Quality

Dr. Chris Gobler on the State of Long Island Water

Dr. Christopher Gobler of Stony Brook University at the Partnership's Sixth Annual "Water We Going To Do?" Conference

Following one of the longest and most intense brown tides that Long Island’s South Shore has ever experienced, the need to take purposeful and immediate action in order to eliminate our nitrogen pollution has never been clearer. Take a crash course in the different types of algal blooms that plague Long Island’s waterways and the ways that we can eliminate them by watching this presentation by Stony Brook University Professor Dr. Christopher Gobler.


Know the difference between a brown tide and red tide? Curious about ways in which nitrogen can be removed from water bodies? In this update on the “State of the Bays” presented during our 6th annual “Water We Going to Do” Conference in May, Dr. Gobler helps to define the different kinds of algal blooms that threaten Long Island’s shores and wildlife and outlines a path forward for the region in its battle against nitrogen pollution. Find out first hand why Dr. Gobler is considered Long Island’s leading expert on the region’s water quality.

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Harmful Algal Blooms

What Are Harmful Algal Blooms?

Harmful algal blooms, or HABs, are colonies of algae that grow out of control and pose a threat to humans, the environment, and to the economy. They can sometimes appear as large clumps of foul-smelling gunk, washed up on beaches or at the edges of lakes. Other times, they can cover the entire surface area of pond, depriving anything beneath the water of sunshine and oxygen. Algal blooms can be blue-green, green, red, or colorless. When they’re red, HABs are often referred to as “red tide.” Some species of algae can produce debilitating toxins, kill off fish, oysters and other seafood, and contaminate drinking water supplies. Not all algal blooms are harmful though; In fact, less than one percent of blooms produce dangerous toxins. Under normal circumstances, algae are necessary photosynthetic, aquatic plants that form the base of food chains around the world.

Unfortunately, though, harmful algal blooms have been increasing in occurrence, duration, density, and range around Long Island, the United States, and the globe. A “rainbow” of harmful algal blooms has been reported in nearly every coastal waterway on Long Island in recent years. As a result, fish, turtles, shellfish and other sea creatures have perished.

Moreover, according to NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), every single American state with a coast line or a Great Lake has reported harmful algal blooms in their waters. Humans and pets can be exposed to HAB toxins by drinking, swimming, or boating in contaminated water. The side effects of the toxins can range from vomiting and flu-like symptoms, to gastrointestinal illnesses, and, in some cases, death. Every year, HABs are estimated to cost the United States approximately $82 million dollars, due to their effects on public health, tourism, and the seafood industry.

Algal blooms are believed to occur when pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorous leak into waterbodies. Leakage can occur during a rain storm when lawn fertilizers are washed away, or more insidiously, from home septic systems. A conventional onsite septic system was never designed to remove nitrogen and the average residential septic system discharges approximately 40 pounds of nitrogen per year (there are about 360,000 homes on convention septic systems in Suffolk County alone). This eventually makes its way to Long Island’s aquifer, which in turn, makes its way to Long Island’s bays and harbors.

But there is hope on the horizon. Suffolk County and a few East End towns have set the stage for improvements and are proposing and implementing septic upgrade programs which will swap out conventional septic systems for newer, alternative models which can remove at least 70% of nitrogen from waste. This past summer, Suffolk County launched a new website that it developed dedicated to helping homeowners and industry professionals learn more about this issue and to take action. Under the Reclaim Our Water Septic Improvement Program, homeowners who decide to replace their cesspool or septic system with the new technologies will be eligible for a grant of up to $11,000. More information can be found at http://reclaimourwater.info/

Suffolk County has devised the Septic Improvement Program consisting of both a grant and low-interest financing program as the next logical piece of the Reclaim Our Water initiative -- an effort to replace some of the many conventional septic systems on Long Island.

By Hannah Stewart, The Nature Conservancy

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Storm Water Pollution Prevention

Homeowners - there are a variety of methods to prevent storm water pollution

Storm water runoff is one major source of Long Island’s surface water pollution.  Unfortunately, it often leads to beach closures after heavy rainstorms due to unsafe bacteria levels. However, there are a variety of practices that homeowners can adopt to prevent storm water pollution.  Check out the list of options below to get started.

Storm water runoff is precipitation or snowmelt that does not seep into the ground but flows over impervious surfaces such as roads, driveways, roofs, sidewalks or over bare, compact soils and sometimes lawns.  Storm water becomes polluted as it flows over these surfaces and picks up all sorts of contaminants such as chemicals, nutrients and bacteria.  The water eventually makes its way into sewer systems or drains directly into surface waters.

Homeowner methods for storm water pollution prevention:

Install a rain barrel.  Rain barrels hook up to your home’s gutter system and collect and store precipitation that runs off of the roof.  The water can be used for gardening. 

Reduce pesticide and fertilizer use.  Fertilizers contain phosphorus and nitrogen, which promotes the overgrowth of algae in the waterway.  If discontinuing fertilizer isn’t an option, switch to an organic brand. 

Create a rain garden with native plants.  Lawns aren’t particularly effective at handling storm water and are often treated with chemicals and fertilizers.  Replacing an area of lawn with native plants, which require less fertilizer and usually less irrigation will help to allow precipitation to soak into the ground while plants help filter out pollutants.  Planted areas generally soak up 14 times more water than lawn areas.

Create a vegetated buffer.  If you live along the water’s edge (even if you have bulk heading), vegetative buffers are excellent in preventing storm water pollution.  Buffer areas, planted with native vegetation, reduce the velocity of runoff and are effective at trapping upland sediments, pesticides and pollutants.

Reduce impervious surfaces.  Any reduction in the amount of impervious surface on your property will help reduce runoff.  Replacing paved driveways, walkways or patios with permeable pavement or materials will allow precipitation to soak into the ground. 

Pick up after your pet.  It sounds trivial, but it’s not.  Pet waste, especially deposited on beaches and around shoreline communities can contaminate surface waters due to excessive nutrient and bacteria content. 

Dispose of hazardous materials properly.  Never dispose of chemicals such as paints, oils, pesticides or cleaners down storm drains, lawn areas or even house drains.  Take advantage of your town’s hazardous waste drop off days or contact your local municipal waste department for information regarding proper disposal.  

To stay informed on how you can help protect surface water quality, sign up to become a member of the Long Island Clean Water Partnership - sign-up here.

By: Jenn Hartnagel, Group for the East End

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Making Progress at the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant

Updates at the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant will protect the Western Bays

The Western Bays were once productive fishing and shellfishing grounds, but excessive nitrogen loading from the South Shore Water Reclamation Facility, or SSWRF (formerly the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant) and Long Beach Sewage Treatment Plant have led to degraded water quality, excessive seaweed growth, and massive shellfish die-offs.  Despite significant improvements to the SSWRF after Superstorm Sandy and investments in state-of-the-art treatment technologies, nitrogen pollution from each sewage treatment plant continues to threaten water quality, public health, and the local economy on the south shore of Nassau County.

After years of advocating for funding for an ocean outfall pipe for the SSWRF, we are closer than ever to a fix for the Western Bays.  Instead of building a new ocean outfall pipe, Nassau County has been studying using an aqueduct under Sunrise Highway to connect the SSWRF and Long Beach Sewage Treatment Plant to an existing outfall pipe at the Cedar Creek Sewage Treatment Plant.  The aqueduct, which was once used to transport water to New York City, has been studied by Nassau County and is reported to be in “very good condition”.  While a full environmental review is slated to begin next year, the early reports from the County are very promising and could provide a cost-effective and environmentally sustainable solution for our Western Bays.

Under this new plan, the Long Beach Sewage Treatment Plant would be connected to the SSWRF, where the effluent from each sewage treatment plant would undergo advanced treatment to reduce nitrogen by 50%. Then, the treated effluent would be directly connected to the Cedar Creek outfall pipe through the aqueduct, bypassing the Cedar Creek sewage treatment plant entirely and emitting the cleanest effluent in the NY-NJ area.  Once the waste is diverted to an ocean outfall pipe, the Western Bays are expected to make a full and speedy ecological recovery.  

This solution not only saves the Western Bays, but protects our ocean.  Excessive nitrogen from the SSWRF and Long Beach Sewage Treatment Plant are causing the unprecedented amounts of green seaweed washing up on ocean beaches this year. Plus, with a quicker construction period and a $200 million cost savings versus building a new outfall pipe, this plan is a win-win for the public. 

To stay up-to-date with the latest news on Western Bays protection and our other campaigns to protect Long Island’s water resources, become a member of the Long Island Clean Water Partnership today: sign-up here.

By: Jordan Christensen, Citizens Campaign for the Environment

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How to Interpret Dr. Chris Gobler's Water Quality Report

Follow Dr. Gobler's Water Quality Report this Summer 

Over the last several years throughout the summer months, Dr. Chris Gobler of The Gobler Lab at Stony Brook University has collaborated with News 12 Long Island to bring Long Islanders a weekly water quality report through the Long Island Water Quality Index.  Be sure to check out these weekly reports on the News 12 Long Island website under the “Weather” tab.  Click here for the reports: http://longisland.news12.com/story/35643003/news-12-long-island-water-quality-report

This weekly water quality report presents data on roughly thirty sites throughout the waters surrounding Long Island. Each site is tested for six different parameters: fecal coliform bacteria, chlorophyll, harmful algae, brown tide, dissolved oxygen and water clarity. A color-coded interactive map is provided that allows readers to pinpoint each individual site and see how it compares to others throughout the region.  Every week, each water quality parameter is ranked on a scale using state and federal standards.  These rankings determine an overall score for the water quality at each of the thirty sites.  They are represented by a ranking of either Good (green) Fair (yellow) or Poor (red).  Under the map, a summary report is provided that contains the week’s highlights.  Notable conditions such as the occurrence of algal blooms and/or other unique circumstances are detailed.

It’s important to note that the data that is provided in the weekly report is not intended to be used for determining the safety of shellfishing, swimming or boating.  Please check in with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation regarding information related to shellfishing beds and the Nassau and Suffolk County Departments of Health for beach closures.    

The Water Quality Index not only provides the public with an overall understanding of how its precious water resources are fairing, but it provides a baseline of data that can be utilized to determine what actions are necessary and where in order to mitigate potential water pollution problems in our future.   

To read each week’s water quality report be sure to check out the Long Island Water Quality Index found on the News 12 Long Island website under the “Weather” tab.  http://longisland.news12.com/story/35643003/news-12-long-island-water-quality-report

By: Jennifer Hartnagel, Group for the East End

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Suffolk County Septic Systems Improvement Program

New Nitrogen-Removing Septic Systems: Does Your Home Qualify?

Grants and low-cost loans available to qualifying homeowners to replace failing septic systems

Nitrogen pollution from cesspools and septic systems is degrading Long Island’s water quality and is leading to the closure of our favorite beaches, restrictions on shellfishing, toxic algae blooms and massive fish kills and turtle die-offs. In Suffolk County, 70% of homes (about 360,000 homes) are hooked-up to aging and poorly-maintained individual septic tanks or cesspools that were never designed to remove nitrogen. Average residential septic systems discharge approximately 40 pounds of nitrogen per year, that enters our groundwater and then flows into our surface waters.

The Long Island Clean Water Partnership is pleased to applaud and announce the launch of Suffolk County’s Reclaim Our Water Septic Improvement Program, which will provide millions of dollars in direct financial support for Suffolk County residents who want to replace their existing septic systems with new technology that will improve Long Island water quality.

Priority will be given to homeowners located in key regions, those located in unsewered coastal areas, where nitrogen from septic systems quickly reaches surface waters and degrades our marshes, bays and beaches.

This is an exciting first step in the effort to restore Long Island water quality – we encourage all of our members to participate in this program!

Find important information on how you can qualify for up to $11,000, along with low interest loans to help cover the cost of installing new pollution-reducing wastewater disposal septic systems for your home, visit http://reclaimourwater.info/.

By: Katie Muether, Long Island Pine Barrens Society

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Long Island Water Cycle

How are Long Island Drinking Water and Surface Water Connected?

Learn What You Can Do to Protect Long Island Drinking Water

Long Island drinking water and Long Island surface water share a vital connection. On Long Island, underground aquifers store our only source of fresh Long Island drinking water for Nassau and Suffolk Counties. An aquifer is an underground geologic formation, composed of permeable rock, that has the capability to store and transmit water. These aquifers are not static; they slowly flow from high ground to low, recharged by rainfall, and they supply the majority of fresh water entering our streams, lakes, and bays.

This means, that every action we take on land not only has the potential to impact Long Island drinking water, but also Long Island surface water. Contaminants we introduce on the land’s surface, like nitrogen from wastewater and fertilizers, pesticides, and toxic chemicals, make their way into our aquifer system and then into our bays, harbors, lakes and streams. These contaminants are causing a lot of problems for our local environment.

We all must make a concerted effort to reduce our impact on land, to protect and restore Long Island water quality. Find out what you can do at home to protect our water here:

Want to learn more about how you can help us protect Long Island’s water? Sign up for the Long Island Clean Water Partnership’s email list today!

By: Katie Muether, Long Island Pine Barrens Society

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Pharmaceuticals in Long Island Water

Safe Disposal of Pharmeceuticals

Learn Safe Disposal Techniques that Protect Long Island Water Supply

Why is the safe disposal of pharmaceuticals important for Long Island water quality? The saying, “old habits die hard” is particularly true when speaking about the age-old practice of flushing pharmaceuticals down the toilet. Unfortunately, we now know that when flushed down the toilet, prescription and over the counter medications can contaminate Long Island water supply in addition to our surface waters. According to the Suffolk County Comprehensive Water Resources Management Plan, pharmaceuticals have been found in community public supply wells as well as private well samples throughout various parts of the County. Generally speaking, our septic systems and typical sewage treatment plants do not filter out these contaminants from our water supply. Therefore, it’s imperative to discontinue the practice of flushing and seek safe disposal methods.

Safe disposal of unwanted pharmaceuticals is easier than you think. Instead of flushing, bring pharmaceuticals to drop boxes located in virtually every police station throughout Nassau and Suffolk Counties in addition to police departments located in Suffolk’s five East End towns. The boxes are located in the lobbies of the police stations. No paperwork is required, it’s an anonymous drop. For a complete list of locations, check out Citizens Campaign for the Environment’s listing of drop off locations. Visit Group for the East End’s, East End Pharmaceutical Disposal page for locations within the five East End towns. Additionally, be on the look out for “take-back” events sponsored by various townships and non-profit organizations.

Stay up to date on this topic and more related to protecting and preserving Long Island water quality. Become a member of the Long Island Clean Water Partnership today!

By: Jennifer Hartnagel, Group for the East End

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How to Get Involved

Join the Long Island Clean Water Partnership and Protect Our Water

At the Long Island Clean Water Partnership, we know that we all have a good reason to make sure our water supply is clean and healthy. We each have a part to play in protecting our water for the future. The Long Island Clean Water Partnerships is a coalition of Long Island conservation organizations who are dedicated to protecting and resorting Long Island water quality. There are many ways you can join the Long Island Clean Water Partnership and get involved in the effort to restore our water quality.

  1. Become a member

    Register to become a member of the Long Island Clean Water Partnership to hear the latest on water quality improvement efforts, forums, and actions you can take.

    Long Island Clean Water Partnership members have the ability to write their elected officials with the click of a button. We’ll let you know when an important water quality initiative comes up and our website makes it so easy for you to sign-on your support.

  2. Make your voices heard

    Attend local forums, hearings and rallies – tell your elected officials clean water must be a top priority across Long Island. Become a member of the Long Island Clean Water Partnership today and be the first to hear when these events will be.

  3. Attend our annual “Water We Going To Do?” Conference

    Join us at  the Long Island Clean Water Partnership’s “Water We Going To Do?” to hear experts provide updates on the water quality improvement campaign’s progress to date, highlight success stories and discuss clean water projects currently happening on Long Island. You can learn more here.

  4. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to join in on the conversation.

    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cleanwaterpartnership/

    Twitter: @LICleanH2O

  5. Encourage your friends and family to get involved

    Educate and encourage others to act and take a stand for Long Island clean water!

    Invite your friends to join the Long Island Clean Water Partnership!

By: Katie Muether, Long Island Pine Barrens Society

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