At a press conference on Tuesday, September 18, Peconic Baykeeper Kevin MacAllister presented his 2012 Baywatch report. That report highlights the importance of the Clean Water Act, the impact septic systems are having on the Peconic Estuary and why government needs to step up to the plate to battle the increasingly detrimental affects of nitrogen loading in the bays.
The Clean Water Act (CWA) was passed by Congress 40 years ago this October in reaction to the burning of the Cuyahoga River and other galvanizing affects, said MacAllister in a press release issued in advance of his talk. The CWA set goals of the country striving for “zero discharge of pollutants” by 1995 and fishable and swimming waters by 1983.
When CWA was enacted in 1972, two-thirds of America’s waterways were polluted, said MacAllister.
Forty years later, said MacAllister, a third of the nation’s water bodies are still contaminated, including an overwhelming majority of waters in Suffolk and Nassau County.
“If you’re a Suffolk County resident and you live near a body of water, chances are it is polluted,” said MacAllister.
In Suffolk County alone, over 100 bodies of water have been classified as impaired by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Little Fresh Pond and Big Fresh Pond in Southampton and Mill Pond and Seven Ponds in Water Mill are among the new bodies of water the DEC has classified as impaired, said MacAllister.
According to the Baykeeper, a major source of pollution on Long Island comes from onsite wastewater disposal systems. He championed this belief in a 2010 Baywatch report, which caught the attention of local government officials, including Suffolk County Legislator Edward Romaine, who acknowledged, “our current wastewater regulations do not sufficiently protect drinking and surface waters and are in need of reform.”
“We must take the necessary nitrogen reduction actions at all levels of government to ensure the long-term health of our waterways,” said Romaine in 2010.
Continuing this discussion, the Peconic Baykeeper said its 2012 Baywatch report intends to bring greater public awareness to the topic of nitrogen pollution from wastewater and draw attention to the extent to which local waters have been degraded. Baywater 2012 also calls on elected officials to take meaningful actions to restore and protect local waters.
“It is time to turn the tide and bring water to the forefront of our consciousness and public conversations,” said MacAllister.
In that effort, the Peconic Baykeeper, through its counsel, Super Law Group, LLC has petitioned the DEC to ratchet down nitrogen effluent through more stringent discharge standards.
“DEC has failed to comply to the legal mandates of the Clean Water Act and state law, both of which require strict permit limits on the discharge of nitrogen, in order to protect water quality,” said Baykeeper’s attorney, Reed Super.