Long Island Water Quality Update

The summer of 2022 felt like a long string of bad news.

Scientists from SUNY Stony Brook published their 2022 assessment of water quality in Long Island’s estuaries in 2022. The news is not good. During the months of June through September, every major bay and estuary across Long Island experienced fish kills, algal blooms and oxygen-starved dead zones.

Last year, Nassau County and the U.S. Geological Survey completed a Subwatershed study that analyzed surface and groundwater pollution with updated watersheds maps. The study found that excess nitrogen from outdated septic tanks and cesspools is the main cause of harmful algal blooms and fish kills in our bays and harbors. Nitrogen in household sewage seeps into groundwater and ultimately into bays, harbors and estuaries (or, in some cases, is directly discharged into surface waters).

We are extremely concerned by septic system pollution, as we all sit on top of underground aquifers where fresh water replenishes into a deep recharge aquifer. Any untreated water that flows into the aquifer will eventually make its way into our drinking water.

Based on the study, select subwatersheds on the north shore of Nassau County will need to reduce nitrogen by 60% to hit water quality goals. These much-needed nitrogen reductions can be achieved by upgrading 20,000 existing septic systems with clean water technology.

Clean water septic systems convert nitrogen in wastewater into a harmless gas by harnessing natural processes. These systems are so effective they can remove up to 95% of nitrogen from wastewater when compared to conventional septic tanks. Removing excess nitrogen from the environment will help restore our commercial fishing, boating and recreation industries and improve drinking water for generations to come.

If you would like to see clean water technology at work, stop by the Land Alliance’s new HQ where a Wastewater Works, Inc. system will be installed before year end.

Upgrading your current septic system may be easier than you thought. In Nassau County, grants are available to cover up to 95% of the costs needed to upgrade septic tanks and cesspools with clean water septic systems. Through the Nassau County Soil and Water Conservation District S.E.P.T.I.C. program, you may be eligible for as much as $20,000 to upgrade. For more information on eligibility requirements and how to apply, visit nassaucountyny.gov/SepticReplace.

Community members who have already installed new clean water septic systems have good things to say. Liz Stanton of Bayville reports “Our system is better than we could have hoped, and we have peace of mind knowing we are doing our part in keeping Bayville’s water clean”.

New 2022 map shows record number of fish kills, dead zones and toxic tides that intensified with the heat of summer