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LI Water Quality Continues To Suffer From Excess Nitrogen, Says SBU Study

Jordan Bowman
An algal bloom from Flanders Bay at the Stony Brook lab. Algal blooms zap the water of oxygen and lead to fish kills. Some also release toxins that are harmful to people and pets.

This summer, every major bay and estuary on Long Island had to deal with toxic algal blooms, low oxygen in the water, or both. That’s according to a new water quality report from Stony Brook University scientists.

The researchers found nitrogen pollution from failing cesspools and septic systems are the main cause of algal blooms that can be toxic to humans, dogs and marine life.

Professor Chris Gobler led the water testing. He says climate change is making oceans and bays heat up, which will only make the problem worse.

“As our waters warm, the oxygen levels get lower, and many of the algal blooms that we’re struggling with, like blue-green algae or something known as rust tide, grow faster and get more intense under warmer temperatures.”

Gobler says there is still time to reverse course by expanding sewer systems and installing modern septic tanks that stop nitrogen from seeping into Long Island’s water.

He says there are places on Long Island where nitrogen reduction has led the ecosystem to bounce back.

Jay Shah is a former Long Island bureau chief at WSHU.
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