Saturday rings in National Estuary Week and it comes as water quality issues have been making a splash in local headlines.
Despite all the concern about nitrogen and phosphorous seepage into Long Island’s groundwater, lack of oxygen in coastal waters, and unwanted bacterial blooms, it bears noting some progress has been made in cleaning things up during recent years.
Improvements in wastewater treatment facilities on the western Long Island Sound have led to a significant drop in nitrogen discharge for that area, numerous subaqueous and shoreline habitat restoration programs are under way, oyster farms are thriving in Peconic Bay. New fish ladders and dam removals are also improving river passage for alewives and American eel.
But there is still a long way to go, as illustrated by a Stony Brook University Marine Center report on Long Island’s summertime water quality released last week. That study, headed by professor Christopher Gobler, analyzed 29 locations and rated 11 as good, 16 as fair and two as poor. Further, increasing reports on our freshwaters of blue-green algae — which can irritate humans and harm pets — plus nuisance weed species like Ludwigia and mosquito fern, continue to be a problem.
“The real culprit,” says Gobler, “continues to be nitrogen and phospherous, which seep into our ground waters and estuaries primarily from septic tanks, cesspools and outdated wastewater treatment plants.”
Grass roots organizations and politicians have begun to respond more urgently to the need for action, but local outdoors lovers and the general public can also make a significant difference by limiting their footprint in relation to this kind of non-point source pollution.
“Protecting our groundwater is the number one priority these days,” says Adriane Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, an environmental advocacy group. “In the big picture we need to fix and upgrade existing wastewater treatment infrastructure, expand existing sewer infrastructure where appropriate, and exchange old cesspools and septic tanks for new treatment technologies. Individually, anyone can make a difference by showing up at public meetings to let politicians know they care, and by supporting the tax mechanisms that will ultimately be suggested to pay for bringing things on line”
Gobler boils it down to a matter of choice. “You can choose to use slow release fertilizer on your property since it is less likely to end up in the groundwater supply, and you can use it sparingly. You can also choose native plants that don’t require fertilizer or let some of your yard grow in a natural state.”
If you would like to get involved in any National Estuary Week activities, you’ll find plenty of Long Island events listed under the organization’s Restore America’s Estuaries website: estuaries.org. Long Island Sound Study (lisvolunteer.net) the Peconic Estuary Program (peconicestuary.org) and Save the Sound (ctenvironment.org) have also scheduled volunteer opportunities.
False albacore make waves
Where are the false albacore? According to Brian Stark of Riverhead, the answer is Montauk. Stark and crew were looking for stripers aboard the private vessel 3M&R just south of The Point on Tuesday morning when the little tunny exploded on the surface.
“They were everywhere,” said the lucky angler, “and we caught them on small diamond jigs. It was great!
The speedsters have also showed east of Shinnecock Inlet, around Gardiners Island, east of Orient Point and outside Jones Inlet.