By Phil Corso
A Long Island-based advocacy group has appealed a state consent order that would allow more nitrogen dumping into the Long Island Sound, which connects to Little Bay in Little Neck, with potential to kill underwater wildlife and affect the surrounding ecosystem.
Save the Sound, a program of the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, has filed an appeal with State Supreme Court in Nassau County against a state Department of Environmental Conservation consent order that allows the sewage district in Great Neck, L.I., to increase nitrogen dumping into Long Island Sound.
The consent order, which the state DEC signed with the treatment plant operators in May, would allow the Great Neck Water Pollution Control District to increase its nitrogen dumping limit into the water from the current 238 pounds each day to 653.
“NYSDEC’s decision to let Great Neck Water Pollution Control District increase its nitrogen discharge runs counter to the Clean Water Act and hurts the health of Long Island Sound,” said Leah Schmalz, director of legislative and legal affairs for Save the Sound.
The state DEC and Great Neck Water Pollution Control District did not return calls seeking comment.
According to Schmalz, the dumping of nitrogen contributes to hypoxia — or low levels of oxygen underwater — in Long Island Sound. Oxygen depletion forces fish to find healthier waters in order to live, threatening both the lives of aquatic and land animals in the ecosystem. The water near the Great Neck dumping site connects to Little Bay, which touches coastlines in Little Neck and other parts of northern Queens.
“This past summer, we witnessed some of the worst hypoxic conditions since the region started measuring hypoxia in 1991. Portions of western Long Island Sound flanked by Long Island and Westchester contained almost no oxygen,” Schmalz said. “We are fast approaching the 2014 deadline to clean up this dead zone, and the practice of relaxing sewage treatment plant nitrogen limits will not get us there.”
Save the Sound’s appeal is asking the state to prevent DEC from modifying Great Neck’s pollution limits both now and in 2014, when the deadline arrives to clean up the Long Island Sound in accordance with the Clean Water Act. By 2014, 58.5 percent of the nitrogen the region dumps into the sound daily must be removed, according to the law.
“To have any hope of restoring the sound’s waters under the legally mandated timeline, NYSDEC must enforce the Total Maximum Daily Load, not give laggards a pass,” Schmalz said. “We look forward to working with NYSDEC, Great Neck and other similarly situated communities to advocate for the necessary funding to upgrade sewage treatment plants and to ensure the sound is protected for generations to come.”
Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4573.