Monday, June 08, 2015
By James Lomuscio
See full report here
Scientists today issued what they said was the first Long Island Sound health report card, giving the estuary an F in the area of New York’s East River and an A 110 miles away where it stretches to eastern Long Island and Block Island.
Westport waters were not specifically graded but local officials speculated they were in the B to B-minus range.
The results from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) were announced at a news conference at the Nature Center at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport with federal, state, and local politicians on hand.
The report card assessment of the 1 million-acre open and coastal waters sea was conducted by the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science (UMCES).
Norwalk Harbor, with point source pollution from four wastewater treatment plants, plus storm water runoff, received a C-plus.
While the Sound is in much healthier shape than it was a decade ago, and vastly improved from 50 years ago, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said, “It’s not good enough.”
“Most of us who grew up on the Sound took it for granted,” said Blumenthal, adding that over the years it took “literally billions to clean up.”
“The report card tells us it’s getting better, but it’s not good enough,” he added. ” ...It still requires a lot of care and attention. We cannot be complacent. C-plus is not acceptable.”
Blumenthal said that upon his return to Washington, D.C. today he is “going to tell my colleagues you should be ashamed.”
“The Sound is one body of water and pollution crosses state lines,” he said. “We are all in this together.”
Caroline Donovan, UMCES program manager, explained the grading criteria used in the NFWF report card financed by the Long Island Sound Funders Cooperative.
To achieve an A, all water quality indicators had to meet desired levels, and the environment had to offer preferred habitat conditions for aquatic plants and animals, she said.
Robert Hust, assistant director of the Water Bureau for the state Department of Energy and Environmental protection (DEEP), cited certain improvements made over the past decade.
He said these included reducing nitrogen discharged from sewage treatment plants by 60 percent, and cutting the threat of hypoxia, an oxygen starvation caused by increased algae, from 210 to 179 square miles of the Sound.
The bulk of the Sound’s pollution was no point source, such as storm water run off from roads, suburban development and agriculture, he said.
Tony McDowell, executive director of Westport’s Earthplace, The Nature Discovery Center, which runs Harbor Watch, said it will require all who use and enjoy the Sound to get involved on a some level, such as volunteering, “to get the C-plus to an A.”
State Rep. Gail Lavielle, who represents Westport as well as Wilton and Norwalk, noted that she and state Rep. Jonathan Steinberg co-sponsored the recently passed House Bill 6831.
She said it requires “an entire inventory to be completed by 2019” of the Long Island Sound’ species, plant life and other aspects.
“I think that Westport is extremely dedicated to improving the quality of the Long Island Sound,” said Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe, who was among officials present. “Our sewage treatment plant received the highest scores for nitrogen reduction.
“I’d say Westport is about B or B-minus,” he added.
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