Money for a key study on water quality in the western bays along Nassau's South Shore was finally released this week after being held hostage for months by budget negotiations in Albany.
"It's a new beginning for efforts to restore the western bays," said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. "This is a critical study to help us understand that ecosystem and what's degrading it."
The $596,902 study will analyze how sewage, runoff and other contaminants have affected the complex of shallow back bays and marsh islands that stretch from the Queens border to the Jones Beach causeway. Local environmental advocates are concerned that nutrient-laden effluent from nearby sewage treatment plants has triggered an overgrowth of seaweed on the bay floor and may be hurting fish and shellfish populations.
Stony Brook University scientists will use the money to analyze water quality data, study whether marsh islands there are sinking, track how pollution affects fish and create models measuring how containments flow through the bays and lagoon system. Their findings will help the state Department of Environmental Conservation develop a pollution budget - called a total maximum daily load - to determine how much contamination the bays can absorb before the ecosystem begins to deteriorate. Two other studies, including water quality monitoring by the U.S. Geological Survey, are also getting under way this summer.