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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.