DEP hopes oysters clear bay

DEP crews help to reintroduce oysters into Jamaica Bay's waters. Photo courtesy of DEP
By Ivan Pereira

The city started a new battle plan against the pollution in Jamaica Bay last week that using the smallest of aquatic soldiers.

The city Department of Environmental Protection began a new pilot program that reintroduced oysters and reefs into the environmentally sensitive ecosystem. The marine life, which has been missing from the bay for many decades, works to rid the water of the excess nitrogen that has been harming the flora in the area, according to the DEP.

“Oyster reefs once thrived in Jamaica Bay, forming an important habitat for many species and filtering bay water. The findings of this pilot will inform future attempts to restore oyster habitat in the bay,” the agency said in a statement.

Scientists will be evaluating oyster growth, survival, reproduction, water quality and ecological benefits during the study. A representative said there is no definite timeframe for the pilot program and it will continue as long as the oysters thrive.

Jamaica Bay’s saltwater marshland has been dissipating over the last couple of decades because of the nitrogen and the DEP has been working on various ways to combat the problem.

Nearly 70 percent of the marshland has been lost to the polluted water and without restoration plans all will be lost by the end of the decade, environmental activists said.

The most ambitious part of the project involves an upgrade of DEP water treatment plants located around the bay. In February, the mayor announced that $100 million would be invested over the next decade to install new filters that would remove the nitrogen from the discharged water. Currently, the four plants discharge 40,000 pounds a day into the 31-square-mile bay.

Other initiatives include the planting of 1,000 eelgrass plants at the bottom of the bay, which took place in May. The plants help to provide shelter to marine life in the bay and reduce the nitrogen levels, according to the agency.

The city, state and federal governments have also invested a large amount of money to restore some of the saltwater marshlands that were lost.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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