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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!