New Yorkers Warned of Health Danger from Recent “Red Tides”
Thursday, August 2, 2012
NEW YORK - New Yorkers are seeing a new environmental problem that has plagued folks in New England for a while: Red tides.
Nitrogen buildup in local waters has resulted in red tides on the east end of Long Island, says Dr. Marci Bortman, director of marine conservation programs at The Nature Conservancy, adding that the drop in water quality means potential health hazards for New Yorkers.
"Shellfish like oysters and clams and mussels and scallops filter the water, and they filter the toxin into their tissue. If people eat the shellfish then, there's a human health problem."
Red tides have been observed in Northport Harbor, Sag Harbor Cove and Shinnecock Bay, Bortman says, explaining that these kind of algae blooms are most common in spring and fall.
One of the main sources of these harmful red tides, Bortman says, is outdated septic and aging sewerage systems. She says her group is working to establish new groundwater standards for nitrogen in New York state.
"There are advances in wastewater now, where you can pull the nitrogen out as part of the treatment so it doesn't make its way into the bays and harbors."
Bortman says New York has been coping with less-harmful brown tides for a number of years, but these high levels of nitrogen in local waters are new.
"Red tide is something that New England has experienced, it's fairly new for New York. We've always had the algae in our water - but it's never been in levels of high toxicity."
Bortman says towns such as Huntington deserve credit for smart planning, which includes more advanced water quality systems that should protect the community for years to come.
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