July 12, 2006

Recent Funding Approved To Clear Peconic Waters

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy signed three resolutions this week to provide funding for the study of environmental problems plaguing Suffolk County waters.

The first resolution will provide $150,000 for a study of Brown Tide conducted with Cornell Cooperative Extension. "The study will measure the water inflow into the Peconic Bay Estuary to see if it is any contributing factor for Brown Tide," said Michael Deering, Commissioner of the Department of Environment and Energy. The Estuary is situated between the North and South Forks, and covers 158,000 surface water acres and begins at Brookhaven National Lab. Additionally, the bill will purchase specialized long-term automated marine monitoring equipment.

The second resolution will provide $60,000 for the monitoring of Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB), one of which is Red Tide. "We are investigating a new form of Red Tide and are trying to get better information on how to identify it, deal with it and how it will effect the Peconic Estuary," said Deering.

The third resolution will provide $150,000 for ongoing work that is part of the Peconic Bay Estuary Program. It will provide environmental planning, benthic mapping, monitoring equipment and eelgrass restoration. "We are hoping these measures will restore the shellfish population," says Deering.

"These projects will help us understand past harmful algae blooms and work to prevent future outbreaks, as well as improve the water and the ecosystem of Peconic Bay," Levy noted.

Now that the legislation has been passed, according to Deering, the county will immediately be moving forward to begin the studies. "The studies continue to show the county's commitment to improving and restoring water and nature in the Peconic Estuary," said Deering.

Although not harmful to human beings, "Brown Tide" is an algal growth harmful to shellfish and different sea grasses. It was first discovered in 1985 in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island when the bloom of the species Aureococcus anaphogefferens turned the water a coffee-colored brown.

"Red Tide" is a second type of algal bloom that describes a dense algae with visible patches near the surface of the water containing reddish pigments, turning the water red. "If humans eat shellfish that have eaten this, they are subject to health problems," said Kevin McDonald, Chair of the Citizens Advisory Committee that advises different local, county and state governments on how to deal with the Red and Brown Tide issues. "There was a problem in Cape Cod a few years ago with Red Tide, and it makes all the sense in the world that we be concerned about it out here," he says.

Although McDonald praises Suffolk County for taking the lead in keeping its waters clean, he noted, "There are still variables we do not understand that prevent us from fully fixing these problems, but after the results of the studies come in, we hope to understand and prevent harm that the tides can cause."

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