The Health & Science of Our Bays: A Fire Island Perspective

We were proud to co-host the forum, "The Health & Science of Our Bays: A Fire Island Perspective." The public forum brought together experts from government and environmental organizations to begin a critically important discussion on water quality challenges and solutions, specifically tailored to the unique challenges of Fire Island. Background: Long Island’s water quality is in jeopardy, and the culprit is excessive nitrogen. Nitrogen pollution from outdated sewage and septic systems causes harmful algal blooms (HABs), hypoxia, beach closures, and fish and turtle die offs. HABs impair water quality and can be toxic to humans and marine life.

In Suffolk County, 360,000 homes are on septic systems and cesspools. According to a recent USGS study, 80% of septic systems on Fire Island leach effluent directly into the Great South Bay with little or no filtration due to sandy soils. Suffolk County is currently providing homeowners incentives to upgrade antiquated septic systems and cesspools to advanced, on-site wastewater treatment systems, which will reduce nitrogen entering our ground and surface waters.

Speakers included Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director, Citizens Campaign for the Environment; Carl Lobue, Ocean Program Director, The Nature Conservancy; Chris Schubert, Supervisory Hydrologist, USGS (United States Geological Survey); and John Sohngen, P.E., Principal Public Health Engineer, Suffolk County Department of Health Services (“SCDHS”), Office of Ecology. Each speaker gave a brief presentation (click on each speaker's name to see a pdf of their presentation), followed by 30 minutes of questions and answers.  Thank you to all our speakers and members of the public that made this such a productive discussion!