New York and the Western Sound
CLEAN AND SAFE? OUR WATERS AND BEACHES AREN'T THERE YET.
We must stop pollution that closes our beaches. Bacterial pollution from raw sewage forces the closing of Long Island Sound beaches every summer. Such closings have risen dramatically over the past decade, especially in Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk counties. In Westchester County alone, there were 140 beach closings in 2011 and 111 in 2012. Sign up for our Sound Swim Alerts to learn when beaches in Westchester County are closed due to pollution.
We must heal the low oxygen dead zone that plagues the western Sound each summer. During parts of August 2012, the oxygen in waters off Westchester and Nassau counties dropped to almost nothing. This state of oxygen depletion is called hypoxia. Without oxygen, the fish, lobster, crabs and other marine animals that form the Sound's web of life must leave immediately or die. Every summer, slower-moving creatures get caught, and the Sound's ecosystem suffers.
Save the Sound is advocating for a cleaner Long Island Sound, and will work to restore our beaches, rivers and the Sound itself for swimming, boating and fishing. Our goal is to help provide an environment where humans and marine wildlife can prosper year-round.
HOW WILL WE ACHIEVE OUR VISION OF A SAFE AND THRIVING SOUND?
Enforcing the Law
Our Western Long Island Sound Clean Water "Accountability with Teeth" Program operates out of our Westchester office and focuses on existing, strong clean water laws that support our vision of a healthy and vibrant Sound. The challenge is to make sure these laws are enforced, and that counties and others are held accountable for their actions—or their inaction. Federal law requires our sewer plants slash oxygen-robbing nitrogen pollution—an essential step in healing the low oxygen dead zone. The law also requires New York municipalities, towns and villages to fix sewer pipe leaks that contribute to sewage pollution and beach closings. Private business and homeowners may also need guidance and support to ensure their sewage lines are intact and connected properly.
Save the Sound legal staff and experts are tracking the progress of every one of the 17 sewage treatment plant systems in New York that impact the Sound's water quality.
In early 2014, Save the Sound released "Healing the Sound's Dead Zone: Are New York's Sewage Treatment Plants Making the Grade?" a report card of the plants' progress toward their nitrogen reduction targets. Read it here.
After filing an appeal in 2013 against the Great Neck Water Pollution Control District and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, Save the Sound agreed to discontinue the suit in May 2014 after confirming that the plant has now completed its nitrogen upgrades and is no longer violating the Clean Water Act—good news for the Sound.
In addition to combating nitrogen pollution, we are also working to slash bacteria pollution from stormwater runoff pollution and sewage overflows.
In a lawsuit filed by Save the Sound and other environmental organizations, the New York State Supreme Court ruled that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation must do more to clean up stormwater runoff across the state.
The court agreed with Save the Sound that the statewide "general permit" for municipal stormwater was not strong enough. Currently, stormwater runoff contributes to the LIS dead zone, beach closings, impaired fisheries and shellfish harvesting. The court ordered NYSDEC to fix several major flaws in the permit to ensure that all Clean Water Act requirements are met. The court required:
- NYSDEC to exercise stricter oversight over municipal stormwater permits;
- Include detailed compliance schedules to reduce runoff pollution; and
- Allow the public to review and comment on municipal plans before they are approved.
STATUS: The decision is being appealed to the New York Appellate Division by the NYSDEC where CFE/Save the Sound is defending the victory. Read the NY Court Decision
We will also work to save the Sound one backyard at a time by spreading the word about western Long Island Sound programs, highlighting local stories on our vibrant Green Cities, Blue Waters blog, and creating a summer youth/family outreach and education program.
Engaging our youth – This summer Save the Sound is offering exciting experiential education for youth ages 10+ through partnerships with beach/yacht clubs in Western Long Island Sound Topics include: the Sound estuary and watershed, water quality testing, Sound habitats and animals, and how you can Save the Sound!
Save the Sound also works to restore critical habitats that have been degraded over time. Save the Sound facilitates several types of habitat restoration projects, including marsh restoration, migratory fish passage, fish counting, and vegetation planting.
Sunken Meadow State Park Marsh Restoration, Smithtown, NY
This project is in the engineering and design phase.
Save the Sound will coordinate the replacement of an earthen barrier in the park with an open channel and pedestrian bridge. The project will restore tidal flow to over 132 acres of salt marsh.
Betty Allen Fishway, Huntington, NY
Save the Sound facilitated the rehabilitation of the spillway at the park and the construction of a new fish ladder and fishing platform, preserving the integrity of Betty Allen Pond and helping to increase the fish population by improving migratory access to spawning habitats.
Eelgrass Restoration Project, NY
In partnership with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, Save the Sound helped to restore 1.5 acres of eelgrass beds through eelgrass weaving and subsequent planting at nine sites in NY and CT. NY sites included Old Field Point, Duck Pond Point, Goldsmith’s Inlet, and St. Thomas Point.