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Views from Wainscott, Long Island
Georgica Pond Views from Wainscott, Long Island © Red Vault Productions

Long Island Water Quality

On Georgica Pond

Wainscott

On Georgica Pond Even Long Island’s most bucolic communities are not immune to the effects of nitrogen pollution.

It's Toxic

The blue-green algae Microcystis produce a powerful toxin, called microcystin, which can make people and wildlife very sick. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, irritation, allergic reactions, and difficulty breathing and even death. Researchers have shown that when there are high levels of nitrogen, the algae produce even more toxins. Deaths of pets and livestock attributed to blue-green algae have been documented around the country, including the Hall's dog Rosie. Even if there are no printed warning signs, avoid contact with and keep pets away from lakes and ponds that have green water.

A Step-by-Step Process

Long Island's nitrogen pollution problem affects us all. Thankfully, local leaders and motivated citizens are working toward solutions. New York State, Suffolk County, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and several Long Island townships have all recently taken steps aimed at reducing Long Island's nitrogen pollution problem. There is no one single solution. Restoring and protecting Long Island's water quality will be a step by step process.

Signs like this one are common sights on Long Island, where blue-green algae blooms produce a powerful toxin, called microcystin, which can make people and wildlife sick.
Bloom Advisory Signs like this one are common sights on Long Island, where blue-green algae blooms produce a powerful toxin, called microcystin, which can make people and wildlife sick. © Marian Lindberg

It Doesn't Just Apply to Georgica Pond

Fueled by nitrogen pollution, the blue-green algae Microcystis caused the closure of 14 lakes and ponds in Suffolk County in 2015, including Long Island's largest lake, Lake Ronkonkoma. All of Long Island suffers when beaches are closed in the summer and people are unable to swim, fish, or even walk on the beach without encountering toxic algae.

Explore Local Stories About Water Quality

We're Oyster Farmers
Montauk
An oyster farm with 1 million oysters can filter 50 million gallons of water per day, making them a critical piece in protecting Long Island's water quality from nitrogen pollution
Southwest Nassau County
Jim's Solution
A Freeport junkman Jim Ruocco has witnessed what happens when 50 million gallons per day of minimally treated sewage effluent are discharged into a poorly flushed estuary.
Answers & Solutions
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As a fishermen and scientist, Carl LoBue ponders what our successors will think about the decisions we make today, and how those decisions will impact the island’s fishing future.
Generations
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See how Long Island’s smallest township is a microcosm of the region-wide water quality problem.
On Display
Bellport
When the new Great South Bay inlet created by superstorm Sandy opened up, it formed an 8-mile undeveloped stretch of Fire Island called the Otis Pike High Dunes Wilderness Area.
It's Imperative
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Mayor Maura Sperry talks about how water quality affects one of Long Island’s most flood-prone communities.
Something Lost
Oakdale
George Remmer, commercial fisherman, restaurant owner, and college professor, laments the changes he has seen around Great River, Grand Canal and Great South Bay.
Collapse of a Legacy
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Howard Pickerel has hand-built 600 boats in his backyard. Pickerel boats were at one time the backbone of Long Island’s shellfishing industry.
A New Perspective
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Evelyn O'Doherty is a year-round stand-up paddleboard racer, paddler, surfer and yoga teacher who lives in East Hampton.
On Georgica Pond
Wainscott
Even Long Island’s most bucolic communities are not immune to the effects of nitrogen pollution.
A Chef's Connection
Greenport
Forty years ago Bruce Bollman had a vision that Long Island’s North Fork would become a destination calling for gourmet artisanal eateries.