If you're already a member, please log in. If not, please register.

Log In   |   Register

LICWP

Blog

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