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The health of Long Island waterways reaches an all-time low

Sabrina Garone

The Long Island Marine Monitoring Network reports only one out of the 30 waterways tested meets state and federal standards for water quality.

The others were awash with fish kills, toxic algal blooms, fecal bacteria and low oxygen levels.

Chris Gobler is a marine biologist at Stony Brook University. He said recent rain events combined with the heat have exacerbated these issues.

“The signs of climate change are everywhere," Gobler said. "Everything I was taught about it when I was in school is coming true now, and it’s only going to intensify.” 

Kevin McDonald is with the Nature Conservancy. He said this highlights problems with wastewater infrastructure that need to be addressed.

“Some time in the future, there will not be cesspools on Long Island," McDonald said. "There will not be human discharge directly to groundwater and surface water that poison our bays and harbors. The question is, will the Legislature get the public to vote on it?” 

Suffolk County Legislature will decide next week whether to put a referendum on the November ballot to create a sales tax hike, which could fund the replacement of outdated septic tanks and cesspools.

This could be a requirement to access federal and state climate dollars.

Sabrina is host and producer of WSHU’s daily podcast After All Things. She also produces the climate podcast Higher Ground and other long-form news and music programs at the station. Sabrina spent two years as a WSHU fellow, working as a reporter and assisting with production of The Full Story.