Brown Tides Looming: Nitrogen Pollution from Sewage is a Contributing Factor

Public Wants Action Taken on Water Quality and is Willing to Pay for It

East Hampton, NY | June 28, 2013

Before beach season has begun, our bays are plagued with an increase in pollution from sewage which is fueling has lead to brown tides in Quantuck, Shinnecock and Moriches Bays. This marks the seventh consecutive year these destructive blooms have occurred in the Moriches-Quantuck- Shinnecock Bay system. While brown tides have also occurred in Great South Bay as recently as 2008 and 2011, the presence of a new ocean inlet in eastern Great South Bay that formed during Hurricane Sandy may be assisting in keeping the blooms away in 2013.

 “Shellfish harvesting closures, fish kill-off from pollution, and unsafe conditions keep us from enjoying the best of our local seafood, beaches and bays,” said Dr. Marci Bortman, director of conservation science for The Nature Conservancy on Long Island. “Such impacts are linked to the amount of nitrogen pollution from sewage that flows directly to our waterways. We need to upgrade and modernize our sewer and septic systems to keep our water healthy.”

 According to a recent survey commissioned by The Nature Conservancy, Long Island residents feel that water quality is getting worse – and expressed a resounding desire specifically to upgrade water quality standards to abate the biggest water quality threat – nitrogen pollution.  Support for clean water is so important that voters are willing to help pay for the necessary improvements.

 While not all respondents were aware that nitrogen pollution was a problem for water quality, when asked to focus specifically on it, nearly all Long Island voters register concern about this problem. Voters overwhelmingly support policies which would address this type of pollution as well.Fully 85 percent support setting a new government standard to reduce levels of nitrogen pollution.

The Nature Conservancy and partners are working to ensure that ground water and surface water of long Island are protected and to restore water quality where degradation has occurred. The group is looking to establish new nitrogen pollution reduction standards at the New York State level that protects public health as well as the health of bays, harbors and streams across the Island. This will require protecting watersheds where we still can – and modernizing existing infrastructure and restoring habitats in areas shown to have degraded water quality.

Specifically, three-in-four voters back local governments on Long Island spending $3 billion over 20 years in efforts to clean up and prevent pollution of our rivers, lakes and bays.

“Long Islanders want clean water and are willing to pay for it. But we don’t have the luxury of time. Working together, we can leave cleaner waters for our children and grandchildren. We owe it to them to clean up and protect the waters that we rely on for our health, livelihood and recreation,” said Dr. Bortman

 In order to address the issues facing water quality and come up with workable solutions, the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, Group for the East End, The Nature Conservancy, and Citizens Campaign for the Environment have launched the Long Island Partnership To Save Clean Water to promote protection and restoration of Long Island’s unique water resources. The partnership will work to enact a reduction in the amount of nitrogen coming from wastewater – whether from a sewage treatment plant or septic systems. Members of the Clean Water partnership will engage with decision-makers at all levels of government to determine the most sensible and fair approaches.  

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at unprecedented scale, and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in more than 65 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit or follow @nature_press on Twitter.

Contact information

Kara Jackson 

Office: 631-329-7689 ext 20
Cell: 631-487-1928


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