Save the Sound citizen petition asks NYC to cut nitrogen, let Long Island Sound heal

Save the Sound launched a public petition this morning demanding that New York City reduce the amount of nitrogen it releases into the waters of the East River. Excess nitrogen from wastewater, stormwater runoff, and fertilizers spurs growth of toxic algae blooms in Long Island Sound that suck oxygen from the water and can close shellfish beds and fish die-offs. Nitrogen is also a major cause of marsh die-back that threatens coastal communities. The petition is timed to coincide with Long Island Sound Day on May 27, which starts each summer with celebration of the Sound’s economic, recreational, and environmental values and raising public awareness of its needs.

The petition, available to the public at http://tinyurl.com/NYCnitrogenpetition, is directed to New York City Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Emily Lloyd. Earlier this year the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency identified New York City nitrogen inputs into the East River as a major cause of the low-oxygen dead zones that plague the western end of Long Island Sound every summer.

“Nitrogen pollution does real damage not only to the Sound’s ecology, but to our regional economy and health,” commented Tracy Brown, director of Save the Sound’s Western Long Island Sound program. “It suffocates the lobsters and fish that have made our local cuisine famous, it fuels unsightly and toxic algae blooms that close shellfish beds, and it destroys the coastal marshes that protect us in storms and serve as nurseries for fish and birds. This has been going on for far too long. The good news is that swift action by New York City and other communities around Long Island Sound can restore the Sound’s web of life.”

Significantly cutting nitrogen inputs will help heal the Sound by:

  • Breathing life back into low-oxygen dead zones;
  • Reducing and eventually eliminating toxic and nuisance algae blooms;
  • Giving salt marshes a chance to survive and protect neighborhoods by absorbing flood waters and coastal storms;
  • Mitigating local ocean acidification.

Save the Sound submitted a formal petition to the EPA in February 2015 requesting an updated nitrogen reduction plan for Long Island Sound. The petition was co-signed by Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Connecticut River Watershed Council, Environment Connecticut, Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic, Friends of the Bay, Long Island Soundkeeper, and Rivers Alliance of Connecticut. A few months later, massive nitrogen-related die-offs of fish and turtles captured attention around the Sound. EPA issued a new nitrogen strategy in late 2015 that lists reducing nitrogen inputs to the East River as one of three priority actions, along with developing local plans for the most-threatened bays and harbors around the Sound and cutting nitrogen flows from Connecticut’s major rivers.

“EPA’s nitrogen strategy is a great game plan, and now it’s time to put it into action,” said Brown. “This Long Island Sound Day, we invite citizens in New York City and all around the Sound to join us in calling on Commissioner Lloyd to cut NYC’s nitrogen and let Long Island Sound recover.”

Save the Sound is a bi-state program of Connecticut Fund for the Environment with an established 40-year track record of restoring and protecting the waters and shorelines of the Sound. From its offices in Mamaroneck and New Haven, Save the Sound works for a cleaner, healthier, and more vibrant Long Island Sound where humans and marine life can prosper year-round. Our success is based on scientific knowledge, legal expertise, and thousands of ordinary people teaming up achieve results that benefit our environment for current and future generations.

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