Peconic Great South Baykeeper
Do the Math


Our Response to the New York Times Article 'Dead Rivers, Closed Beaches', a Water Crisis on Long Island

Friends and Supporters of Peconic Baykeeper,

As you may have read, the New York Times recently published an article about the health of our water titled ‘Dead Rivers, Closed Beaches’, a Water Crisis on Long Island. Finally, it seems like the dire nature of our fragile fresh, coastal, and groundwater systems on Long Island are becoming mainstream news. PBK has led the fight for swimmable, drinkable, and fishable waters on Long Island for the past two decades, but the real battle has just begun.

While we applaud efforts by the state, county, and local governments to combat our growing nitrogen pollution issues through upgraded infrastructure and wastewater treatment technologies, this alone will not bring our bays, rivers, and near coastal habitats back. We embrace the efforts to pilot, test, and offer rebates to willing homeowners, municipalities, and businesses to implement these new wastewater technologies. However, this alone will not be enough.

 The solution is not rocket science, it is arithmetic.  We need our municipalities, county, and state governments to embrace a “Net Nitrogen Reduction” policy to begin to combat the negative effectives of nitrogen pollution. Very simply stated, we should not produce more new nitrogen loads without reducing at least the same amount of loads elsewhere. If X new loads are produced, X+1 loads need to be removed. Otherwise, we are simply growing new pollution at a slower rate, not actually reducing pollution.

Over the past 5 years, Suffolk County has approved around 1,300 new septic systems on average yearly. Even with new funding for a rebate program proposed in the above article, the county hopes to replace about 200 systems a year. This will not lead to a reduction in nitrogen pollution, just a slightly slower increase.

In order to affect real change, PBK is unveiling a “Wastewater Nutrient Report Card” for 2017. This program will do the simple arithmetic of how many new loads were produced, and how many existing loads were reduced. The public is owed the right to know how their local governments are doing, as it is OUR water. We plan to use this as a first step in getting our local governments to buy into a Net Nitrogen Reduction policy moving forward. Without this, all of our good intentions outlined in the above article will be for naught. The time for real change is here. Help PBK lead the fight for your bays and ocean!

Sean O’Neill

Executive Director and Baykeeper 



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