The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

46° Stony Brook, NY
The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

Newsletter

    Disappearing Marshes at Jamaica Bay

    The disappearance of salt marshes in Jamaica Bay, located at the Gateway National Recreation Area, has led many researchers, including Stony Brook University’s Waste Management Institute, to track the causes and consequences of the damage.
    According to the Jamaica Bay Watershed Protection Plan Advisory Committee’s assessment on the marshes, released on August 2, 2007, between 1924 and 1999 more than 50 percent of the marshes vanished. Researchers suggest the remaining marsh lands will disappear by 2024.’ The Department of Environmental Conservation estimated that if the loss continues at the rate of 44 acres per year the marsh lands could be gone.
    This damage will result in the loss of more than 80 fish species, and disrupt the habitat of many endangered species, such as the Atlantic Ridley sea turtle and peregrine falcons.’ There are also many places in the bay where people cannot swim because of’ the poor water quality.
    In July 2005, Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed Local Law 71, which required the Department of Environmental Protection to develop a plan to save the marshes.’ This resulted in the development of the Advisory Committee. Included in the research are the National Park Service and the Natural Resource Defense Council.’ The Waste Management Institute at SBU was appointed by the New York city council and the mayor’s office to analyze research conducted over the years and to make recommendations to improve Jamaica Bay.
    Larry Swanson, the director of the Waste Reduction & Management Institute, said a series of factors can contribute to the destruction of the marshes.’ This includes an excess amount of nitrogen, storm-water pollutants and human actions.’ The amount of nitrogen can ‘stimulate hypoxic conditions,’ Swanson said.’ In other words there will be too little oxygen in the water.
    This condition is the result of wastewater processing at sewage treatment plants.’ The assessment stated that the plants release more than 250 million gallons of treated wastewater into the bay every day.’ This wastewater contains 30 to 40 thousand pounds of nitrogen each day, which according to the Advisory Committee is ‘far too much nitrogen for the bay to assimilate.’
    Research shows nitrogen can create an environment where a surplus of organic matter in the water will boost the growth of algae which in turn decreases oxygen levels. When the oxygen level falls extremely low any marine life that cannot swim away will ultimately die.
    Human influence on the disappearance of the marshes can be attributed to the development of infrastructures to accommodate residential, commercial and transportation needs. These new developments contribute to the changes in the physical structure of the bay.’ The assessment states that the construction of JFK decreased the surface area of the marshes by 18 square kilometers.
    ‘Other than the physical damage occurring it is not clear which is the main cause of losing wetlands,’ Swanson said.’ However, there have been recommendations as to how to stop future damage.’ One way to decrease the loss is to design a treatment plant to handle storm water.
    Currently, the treatment plants handle a volume of sewage that is greater than what the plant can actually treat. According to the assessment, there are areas that separate storm and sanitary sewers where wastewater goes to the plants and storm water is sent directly to the bay.’ The problem is that storm water contains pollutants.’ The goal is to treat both wastewater and storm water.
    The Advisory Committee said increasing the system’s wet weather holding and system maintenance will decrease pollutants and will result in cleaner water with a decrease in organic matter.’ The committee also said cleaning out sewer lines will enhance the storage capacity.’ There have also been plans made to remove nitrogen by spraying basis, but there is not enough proof to determine whether this idea will work.
    Swanson said the damage that is caused by hydrodynamics is ‘over and done with.” However, he believes there can be steps taken to eliminate further change. ”hellip;might not be able to stop wetland loss, but might be able to treat it,’ Swanson said.’ ‘ In some cases, Swanson said, there might be a way to change the dynamics back.’ If nitrogen could be delivered to another location or treated, the problem would be eliminated or ‘die off.’
    According to the assessment, more than 25 governmental agencies have ‘jurisdictional’ responsibilities in Jamaica Bay, but the programs are insufficient and the funding and structure dedicated to them was found lacking.

    Leave a Comment
    Donate to The Statesman

    Your donation will support the student journalists of Stony Brook University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

    More to Discover
    Donate to The Statesman

    Comments (0)

    All The Statesman Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *