Long Island Water Quality

Something Lost


Something's Lost A commercial fisherman, restaurant owner, and college professor, laments the changes he has seen around Great South Bay.

A Picture of Grand Canal

George Remmer remembers an idyllic Grand Canal from his youth. There, and in other places across Long Island, fresh and tidal marshes were abundant. They absorbed pollutants and flood waters, protected shorelines, and provided habitat for turtles, frogs, and fish. But our marshes are suffering from disruption of water flow, past filling, bulkheading, vector control, and nitrogen pollution. Residents in Oakdale are pushing to restore their marshes. New York Rising's Oakdale/West Sayville Community Reconstruction Team, formed after Superstorm Sandy, has proposed innovative projects to restore healthy flows and revitalize the marshes along the Grand Canal in an effort to bring back the valuable services that this habitat provides for people and nature.

The Clams Aren't There

Hard clams have dramatically declined in Great South Bay, due to over-fishing and algae blooms (e.g. brown tides), fueled by nitrogen pollution. What used to be a thriving part of our local economy has collapsed, taking jobs and a unique part of our local culture with it. "It's something lost."

Once ubiquitous, one of the last remaining Great South Bay clam tongers is a window to the past.
Clam Tonger Once ubiquitous, one of the last remaining Great South Bay clam tongers is a window to the past. © Alida Thorpe

If water quality in the area was better, the business would be better, and the community as a whole would be better.

On Long Island, the environment is the economy. Local tourism generated $5.2 billion in 2012, much of it coastal-based. The waters, shorelines, and wetlands that remain in and around Great South Bay, Great River, and Grand Canal are important natural assets to Oakdale and the surrounding communities. Polluted waters have taken their toll on local marinas and once-thriving fishing spots around Great South Bay. Restoring water quality, cleaning up natural habitats, and improving public access to the shoreline and natural areas will increase the realized value of these natural assets.

Explore Local Stories About Water Quality

We're Oyster Farmers
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
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.
Shelter Island
See how Long Island’s smallest township is a microcosm of the region-wide water quality problem.
On Display
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
Mastic Beach
Mayor Maura Sperry talks about how water quality affects one of Long Island’s most flood-prone communities.
Something Lost
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
North Sea
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
Evelyn O'Doherty is a year-round stand-up paddleboard racer, paddler, surfer and yoga teacher who lives in East Hampton.
On Georgica Pond
Even Long Island’s most bucolic communities are not immune to the effects of nitrogen pollution.
A Chef's Connection
Forty years ago Bruce Bollman had a vision that Long Island’s North Fork would become a destination calling for gourmet artisanal eateries.