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Long Island Looks To Oysters As A Natural Way To Improve Water Quality

Wayne Perry

Community oyster gardens could be Long Island’s solution to improve the region’s polluted water quality.

The Town of Oyster Bay plans to increase the number of oyster gardens in several places, like Laurel Hollow. Officials say the reason to expand is environmental.

Oysters act as natural filters. They feed on contaminants in the water. Oysters can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day.

State Senator Jim Gaughran demonstrated how it works by placing oysters in tanks filled with murky water. The tanks became clearer in just hours.

“They have a lot of village residents involved, and they have their own oyster farming cages in effect that actually work towards cleaning up the harbor.”

Gaughran says nitrogen-filtering septic tanks can be installed to help remediate Long Island’s polluted harbors, but oysters can do the same job and be a crop for the region at the same time.

“This has a lot more with the surface water. This deals a lot more with nitrates from fertilizer, people fertilizing their lawns. Stormwater runoff is a major problem as well.”

The town’s gardening program expects to grow about 85,000 oysters this year.