Waste treatment facilities in Westchester County could become a risk to marine life in Long Island Sound, the environmental advocacy nonprofit Save the Sound warned last week.
Save the Sound, a project of the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, released a report card and interactive map tracking ongoing upgrades at New York’s sewage treatment plants around Long Island Sound. The good news? Nassau and Suffolk Counties have completed their upgrades and both received a grade of A. The bad news? Westchester and New York Counties both received Bs and were listed as being “at risk” of threatening the Sound’s ecosystem.
In 2001, New York and Connecticut entered an agreement with the US Environmental Protection Agency to reduce nitrogen discharges to Long Island Sound by 58.5 percent. The deadline on that agreement was 2014, but Westchester and New York Counties were subsequently given more time to meet the goals—they now have until 2017.
An excess of nitrogenous waste in the Sound can lead to a depletion of oxygen in the water, a condition called hypoxia. According to the report, hypoxic water contains so little oxygen it threatens the marine life that currently thrives in the Sound. The body of water will be considered a “dead zone” that can return every summer. Marine life could either suffocate in the Sound or migrate to a new body of water.
“This report card marks an important step in the generation-long effort to restore life-giving oxygen to the Sound and heal the dead zone, but we’re not there yet,” said Curt Johnson, executive director of Save the Sound. “We applaud Nassau and Suffolk Counties for completing their nitrogen upgrades on time. But we can’t get complacent. Westchester County and New York City still have work to do before 2017 and time is getting short. We have to make sure the plants stay on track until the work is done—there can be no senioritis here, no last-minute slacking off. The health of Long Island Sound is at stake.”
“Dead zones” in the western part Long Island Sound. Red, orange and yellow zones