• Photo Credit: Tina Walsh for Hudson River Park

    How Investments in Clean Water Can Restore Ecosystems

    In March, after a long year of social distancing and cold, cloudy weather, two dolphins were spotted swimming up the East River in New York City. This atypical pair provided a much-needed sign of hope and recovery for City dwellers. Even more surprisingly, tiny seahorses can now be found clinging to oyster cages and other submerged objects in the lower Hudson River. These little seahorses, known as the Lined Seahorse, are one of many aquatic species that now make up a diverse and thriving ecosystem in the Hudson River estuary. For decades, the Hudson River was severely polluted after PCBs, oil, heavy metals and solvents were all dumped into the river by factories producing cars and paper. At one point, local fishermen could tell what color General Motors was painting cars based on the color of the river that day! In 1972, Congress passed the Clean Water Act to restrict “point sources” such as factories and power plants from discharging contamination into US waterways. Over the nearly 50 years that have passed since then, NYC has invested more than $12 Billion to upgrade wastewater treatment to improve the health of the Hudson’s delicate, aquatic ecosystems. And, it has worked. A 2017 report by the NYC Department of Environmental Protection found that the Hudson River is the cleanest it has been in over a century as evidenced by the presence of the Lined Seahorse that would not be found in the Hudson River without these extraordinary cleanup efforts. Efforts such as these give us hope that if we take measures now our ecosystems can, indeed, be restored. We must also remember to stay vigilant in protecting our waters to ensure healthy ecosystems for future generations. Photo Credit: Tina Walsh for Hudson River Park

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  • Water Friendly Lawn Care Tips

    Nitrogen pollution impacts the health of our bays and drinking water source.  The #2 source of nitrogen pollution is fertilizers (#1 is septic systems.)  In an effort to protect the water that sustains us, we offer some healthy lawn care tips. 1)  Timing is important.  Fertilizer should not be applied before April and after mid-October. Nor should it be applied during the hottest summer months when grass is dormant and cannot efficiently absorb fertilizer. 2)  A little goes a long way.  If fertilizer is applied, its use should be minimized.  Especially on a well-established lawn, no more than one-third to one-half the amount recommended on the fertilizer bag should be used.  A low nitrogen fertilizer developed especially for Long Island’s fragile ecosystem should also be considered. 3)  Precision is key.  Equipment used to spread fertilizer should be calibrated for a single application rate of a maximum of 0.6 pounds of total nitrogen per 1,000 square feet at least once annually or each time fertilizer products are changed. Calibration directions are available on the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County website.  4)  Grass clippings should be left on the lawn.  Mulching mowers finely chop grass into small pieces which get deposited into the lawn and decompose quickly. It is like adding a little bit of fertilizer after every mow, and allows the property owner to lessen, or eliminate, chemical fertilizer application. As a general rule, no more than a third of the grass blade should be removed during a single mowing. And it’s also good practice to keep the height at least three inches high, which encourages deeper, healthier roots. 5)  Consider a smaller lawn area.  One of the most effective ways Long Islanders can do their part to protect local water resources is to replace their lawn or a portion of it with less water-intensive landscaping like meadows or “xeriscaping.” Xeriscaping makes use of native plant species, requires little to no fertilizer and can help to absorb and filter rainwater. For more information, please visit the following resources:  NYS DEC Lawn Fertilizer webpage

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  • Reflections from a Long Island Water Education Teacher

    Since 2014, the North Shore Land Alliance has been visiting my West Side School sixth-grade science classes in Laurel Hollow to teach about the effects of pollution on Long Island’s aquifer. I have been teaching for over 30 years, and this workshop/field trip is by far my favorite! Two classroom workshops are held by Karen Mossey from the Long Island Water Education Program, in preparation for the field trip to the Shore Road Sanctuary. Through hands-on inquiry, Ms. Mossey engages the students to think about the amount of drinking water that is on Earth, which leads them to question about our drinking water here on Long Island. Ms. Mossey brings in supplies so the students can build their own aquifers, which allows them to visualize the different layers of Long Island’s Magothy aquifer. The kids are always amazed to discover that we rely on water that comes from an aquifer and how important it is to keep it clean. The hands-on field trip to the Land Alliance’s preserve in Cold Spring Harbor connects what the kids learned during Ms. Mossey’s classroom visits and their own world. My students are always delighted to discover the grassland, shoreline and life buried in the sand and under the rocks, while testing water quality and soil permeability. Every year one of the highlights is discovering the abundance of the Asian Shore Crab species, first found on the North American Atlantic coast in 1988, and the impact invasive species have on our ecosystems. The students love to find mussels, (especially after learning that just one consumes four gallons of water every day), and blue-blooded horseshoe crabs that have been inhabiting our shorelines for over 450 million years. Volunteer educators explain that each day, litter finds its way to our shores. This program has truly impacted my students over the years – they leave the experience always wanting to educate others. Since its inception, the LIWEP has reached 7,708 students in 25 schools in 14 school districts from north to south. This impact would not have been possible without dedicated funding from the Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation, the Merrilyn Foundation, the Rauch Foundation and the Weyerhaeuser Family Foundation.

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