In celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act on Tuesday, Kevin McAllister, the Peconic Baykeeper, not only delivered a grim outlook for East End waterways, but petitioned the Department of Environmental Conservation to take action to reduce nitrogen levels now — or face a lawsuit.
"This is a wake up call," McAllister said. "I am trying to sound the alarm here. There is a fire in the room."
Pointing to his newly released Peconic Baywatch report (attached as a PDF) McAllister said if the DEC and Suffolk County continue to "slip down the slope, our waterways are going to become foul."
"They won't support marine life and they will no longer be swimable. People will get sick. We are seeing signs of that now," said McAllister, referring to the early return of red tide.
McAllister's report indicates that there are already countless waterways on the East End that have been listed on the federal impaired water list with nine more across Suffolk County expected to be added when the new report is released later this year.
Already on the list are Quantuck Bay, Shinnecock Bay, Shinnecock Inlet, Flanders Bay, Peconic River, Weesuck Creek and Sagaponack Pond.
To remedy the situation, McAllister reiterated what he has been saying for years: Nitrogen levels must be reduced.
To reduce levels, McAllister said the DEC and the county must enact stricter standards for nitrogen effluence from sewage and require that the latest technology is used.
In addition, McAlliser said he wants to see the DEC and county get in compliance with the federal Clean Water Act, as well as create a comprehensive monitoring system for all waterways.
He made those notions clear to the DEC on Monday when he submitted a petition calling for action. If his petition falls on deaf ears, McAllister said, litigation is the next step.
"There is a cost [associated with using the latest and greatest technology] but let's dispense with the cost. Let's assign a cost to a polluted bay. What will that do to the economy of Long Island?" McAllister said, pointing out that even if he had a magic wand and could convert all the septic systems to the best today, "it would take decades to purge our polluted bays."
"This is bad news. The residents of Suffolk County better start tuning in and demanding, not asking, that this gets figured out and that the county needs to deal with it. There is no room for complacency."
- Baykeeper Says Biotoxin is Linked to Cesspools
- Despite No Grade Higher Than C+, Report Says Waterways Rebounding
- Baykeeper: Water Quality at Crisis Point
- Town Board Talks Nitrogen in Bays
- Red Tide Appears Early This Summer
- Stony Brook Takes on $3M Project to Restore Shinnecock Bay