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Source: Newsday

Officials urge release of money to study bay pollution

BY LAURA RIVERA

Posted: June 23, 2010
Originally Published: June 22, 2010

In a bid to improve water quality in South Shore bays where millions of gallons of treated sewage are discharged each day, environmentalists, elected officials and civic leaders on Tuesday urged state officials to release funds earmarked to study the waterways.

Although the State Legislature approved spending close to $1 million from the Environmental Protection Fund to investigate the health of Hempstead Bay, South Oyster Bay and Reynolds Channel in 2007, part of the money has yet to be disbursed.

Two state agencies must give final approval to pay Stony Brook University close to $600,000 to begin research on marine life and pollution in the estuaries, officials said.

That delay, advocates said, is holding back progress in restoring bays degraded by the daily pumping of some 64.5 million gallons of treated sewage from five treatment plants.

"The bottom line is that while Albany is lost in a sea of paperwork, our bays are dying," Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Farmingdale-based Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said at a news conference on Magnolia Pier in Long Beach Tuesday.

Water quality in the estuaries has not been measured for nearly 30 years, since a sweeping 1978 water-quality study by the Nassau-Suffolk Regional Planning Board.

The data collected in this report is intended to help the state Department of Environmental Conservation develop a plan to set a maximum daily limit of nitrogen discharge into the bays, a state DEC spokeswoman said.

Some $250,000 in funding for related research in Hempstead Bay and Reynolds Channel did receive final approval, and water-quality monitors are expected to be installed and working by the end of this month, a state Division of the Budget official said. That's roughly a year later than was expected, Nassau Legis. David Denenberg said.

Similar efforts in the Long Island Sound led to mandated upgrades for sewage treatment plants on the North Shore, Connecticut and New York City over the past decade, officials said.

"We need this total maximum daily study done on the South Shore so that we can show how badly impacted these bays are and create that blueprint to restore these bays," Denenberg (D-Merrick) said.

Nassau Legis. Denise Ford (R-Long Beach) acknowledged concerns that the state could divert money from the Environmental Protection Fund to address the budget crisis. "We want to make sure the state doesn't do what it's done in the past and take the money from the EPF for the budget," Ford said.