Protect the bays — fund the Bay Park pipe

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Bay Park’s pipe empties in shallow water, in a closed ecosystem. The Long Beach barrier island prevents the plant’s effluent from escaping into the ocean. According to a recent report by Dr. Lawrence Swanson, director of Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, the tides carry Bay Park’s effluent into the South Shore’s wetlands and bays, which have the greatest nitrogen concentrations of any Long Island waterways.

The nitrogen-rich effluent accelerates the growth of seaweed, in particular ulva lactuca, a bright-green “sea lettuce.” Seaweed breaks apart when it grows unnaturally long, and as it rots, it robs saltwater of the dissolved oxygen needed to sustain marine life. Many of the Western Bays are now “dead zones,” without any fish or shellfish.

The county Department of Health recently announced results of water samplings from the waters around Bay Park, saying they met federal and state guidelines for swimming. We have to wonder about those guidelines. Would any county officials spend a hot afternoon –– or even a few minutes –– splashing around in these waters? Would they feed a fish from them to a pregnant woman?

Nassau County is seeking $1.2 billion in federal and state funding to upgrade Bay Park, $500 million of which would go to extending its outflow pipe.

We know times are tough economically, but the federal and state governments should provide these desperately needed funds to ensure that Bay Park does not fail again in another superstorm, and to reclaim the health of the Western Bays, which for centuries have provided a livelihood for local fishermen.

The longer government waits, the more expensive an extended outflow pipe will become. When we first proposed a longer pipe 10 years ago, its estimated price was $100 million. Now it’s five times higher.

Write to your federal, state and county representatives and demand that they work together to repair Bay Park –– and its outflow pipe –– for good.

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