Environmental Bulletin

Long Islanders Take Aim at Nitrogen Pollution

The map highlights areas of Long Island affected by Harmful Algal Blooms in the summer of 2016. Lawmakers in the region are working to solve the worsening issue by addressing the source of nutrient overloading- septic systems.
The map highlights areas of Long Island affected by Harmful Algal Blooms in the summer of 2016. Lawmakers in the region are working to solve the worsening issue by addressing the source of nutrient overloading- septic systems.

4 Billion Dollars of funding available to the residents of Long Island.

Nutrient overloading is threatening the quality of life on Long Island both above and below ground. Wastewater pollutants are finding their way into the water systems, from the Long Island Sound to the Great South Bay, and everything in between. The Peconic Estuary has seen a drastic increase in harmful algal blooms, fish kills, and frequent beach closures, all linked to nitrogen from human wastewater. Algal blooms render some iconic seafood, such as the classic Blue Tip Oyster, unsafe for consumption. But this issue not only impacts recreation and commerce- it is a matter of public health.

Long Island draws its water from aquifers, or underground water sources. According to a study by Suffolk County, nitrogen levels rose 200% between 1987 and 2005. While the aquifer is still below the EPA’s limit for drinking water, the trend is concerning. With approximately 1.5 million residents, Suffolk County relies heavily on its single source aquifer to supply drinking water for residents and businesses.

Egret getting ready to land in an algae filled pond in Long Island. Getty Images

While excess nutrients, and nitrogen in particular, are introduced to the environment by a wide variety of activities, some sources bear a larger share of the burden than others. Collectively, residential wastewater systems are one of the largest sources of nutrient pollution. Regulators in Suffolk County, which comprises the eastern 2/3rds of Long Island, recently adopted some of the strictest guidelines for residential wastewater treatment in the country. They have set their sights on nitrogen, aiming to reduce nutrient pollution that has been plaguing the island. Even as the population increases, the vast majority of “dense urban sprawl” of Long Island is unsewered, relying on onsite wastewater treatment systems (OWTS).

That’s why county executive, Dan Barone, has announced a $4 billion dollar plan to replace the 360,000 septic systems and antiquated cesspools in the county in the coming years.  According to research, the poor performance of these leaching systems, which are installed at 74% of Suffolk County homes, have led to a drastic increase in groundwater nitrogen concentrations in recent years. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation established the Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan (LINAP) to combat sources of nitrogen pollution. The county is also offering generous grants to homeowners to replace their OWTS with advanced systems. Some towns are subsidizing additional grants to incentivize homeowners to upgrade.

SOSystems and our technology exist to solve problems just like this one. Our LooLoop® is a perfect product to help reduce the pollution plaguing Long Island in the most efficient, straightforward, and attractive way possible. LooLoop® treats wastewater to well below the county’s mandate of <19mg of nitrogen per liter. Our prefabricated BioFilter Cabinet and minimal moving parts make LooLoop® a breeze to install and operate. LooLoop® is customizable and scalable to meet your property’s design and layout. LooLoop®’s low upfront and operating costs let your money, and county grants, go further towards solving nutrient pollution on Long Island.

Please contact us if you are interested in utilizing LooLoop technology at your home!

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