Study: South Shore bays are polluted

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Swanson explained that his research also indicated that the bays are not well flushed, meaning that there is no good place for the nitrogen to go. Measurements indicated that effluent leaving the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant does not immediately flush through the bays’ inlets, he said, but instead “sloshes back and forth.”

Dick Cartwright, of the U.S. Geological Survey, also presented data from monitoring stations at Point Lookout and Island Park. He said that daily statistics show good to fair water quality and ecological conditions near the estuary mouth at Point Lookout, but fair to poor water quality in the middle of the bay, near Island Park.

Research conducted by all three groups will inform the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s total maximum daily load document, which the state uses to regulate the maximum pollutant load that each waste discharger is allowed to release into a waterway.

A long process

But Lorraine Holdridge, a DEC representative, explained that the TMDL document would not be completed until 2017. She also said that the document could include a 15-year implementation plan, comparing it to the Long Island Sound’s TMDL document, for which studies began in the early 1990s.

Holdridge said it was important that that state and all of the researchers involved go through each step of the TMDL process to ensure that they implement the correct plan to reduce pollutants in the bays. Joking that she wanted to hide from attendees at the forum when she showed slides outlining the time frame for the process, she said it is important to determine the true cause of the pollution and what should be done to combat it.

“I don’t think it’s presumptuous to say that Bay Park is going to have to do something,” she said. “We’re unsure at this point what that something is.”

Local activists and elected officials expressed concern about the TMDL time frame, suggesting that change has to happen at Bay Park sooner rather than later, especially in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
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