By Juan Soto
Jamaica Bay is taking a breather from the daily intake of nitrogen discharged into its waters.
The completion of a $83 million project upgrade to the Jamaica Wastewater Treatment Plant has resulted in nitrogen reduction in the 31-square-mile body of water, which means a cleaner and more ecologically sound bay.
The new technology installed at the plant “is part of our commitment to improving water quality, protecting the bay as a premier wildlife refugee and continuing the critically important work to bring back a healthier bay for generations to come,” said Emily Lloyd, commissioner for the Department of Environmental Protection.
Nitrogen reduces levels of oxygen in the water, degrading “the overall ecology and promoting excessive algae growth,” DEP officials said.
According to the DEP, the system upgrade reduces about 6,500 pounds of nitrogen that goes into the bay per day.
“Jamaica Bay is one of the city’s most diverse natural resources and protecting it is a top priority,” Lloyd said.
Large amounts of nitrogen have caused water quality problems, although they posed no threat to human health.
Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers, a nonprofit dedicated to the protection and preservation of the ecosystem of the bay, welcomed the completion of the project.
“We are extremely pleased to report that we are already noticing significant reductions in harmful algae blooms and increases in dissolved oxygen and water clarity due to the activations of this new technology,” said Daniel Mundy, of Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers.
The New York City Audubon, an environmental nonprofit, said about 40,000 pounds of nitrogen are discharged daily in the bay from four city sewage plants.
The Jamaica Waterwaste Treatment Plant was built in 1903 and upgraded in the 1940s. The plant treats 100 million gallons of wasterwater per day from about 728,000 southeast Queens residents.
The DEP is investing $187 million in projects to reduce nitrogen discharges from these four wastewater treatments plants by 50 percent in the next 10 years on the bay, a diverse ecological resource with open water, salt marshes, coastal woodlands, grasslands, 325 species of birds, reptiles and amphibians.
“Jamaica Bay is an outstanding natural resource that is accessible to millions of New Yorkers,” said Joe Martens, commissioner for the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The work to reduce nitrogen is “another giant step toward restoration and protection of Jamaica Bay and its watershed,” he said.
State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman noted that “clean and safer waterways benefit the quality of life of all New Yorkers… [The upgrade] will protect the bay’s precious and natural resources.”
Reach reporter Juan Soto by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 260–4564.