Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Does Sea Grant Think the Long Island Cleanup Will Work? Further Thoughts From Sea Grant

New York Sea Grant Director Jack Mattice, who no doubt had other plans for his workday yesterday, sent me a lengthy reply to the post in which I suggested that Sea Grant, a longtime participant in the Long Island Sound Study and cleanup, is skeptical about the cleanup plans. I have some further thoughts, which I'll save for later.

For now, the article that drew my attention is called Sound Reflections, and it's in this edition of Sea Grant's Coastlines magazine (click on Fall 2006).

Here's what I had to say about it yesterday.

And here's the reply (in its entirety except forsome cordialities and the beginning and end), which was signed by Mattice, Barbara Branca (Sea Grant's communications manager), and R. Lawrence Swanson, a professor at SUNY Stony Brook's Marine Sciences Research Center and the director of the Waste Reduction and Management Institute at Stony Brook:

We’d like to take this opportunity to further clarify the content with which you take issue and to establish that New York Sea Grant does not take a position regarding the relative contribution of factors that cause hypoxia. Rather we reported on the conclusions made by investigators Larry Swanson and Bob Wilson resulting from their NYSG-funded project.

Since the early 1990s these two researchers have been pointing out that nitrogen inputs are not the sole contributor to hypoxia. This assertion is neither a new point of view nor unique to them.

In the last decade there have been great strides in the reduction of nitrogen inputs by municipalities in New York and Connecticut. We all applaud those efforts. But according to Swanson and Wilson, over a three-year period in the late 1990s, the western Sound experienced a 31 percent reduction of nitrogen effluent, but no corresponding increase in dissolved oxygen (DO) in the bottom waters. In other words, there does not appear to have been the anticipated concomitant improvement in overall hypoxia levels. According to the researchers, earlier and more intense stratification is due to an increase in the difference between the summertime surface and bottom water temperatures of the Sound. In fact, the correlation between this temperature difference and bottom DO over the last 50 years is extremely high. The finding that physical conditions such as increased temperature differences and earlier stratification are related to LIS hypoxia has led Swanson and Wilson to the conclusion that even stopping all sewage inputs to the sound will not eliminate the hypoxia problem.

Drs. Swanson and Wilson have made this conclusion public in a letter to the editor entitled “Long Island Sound and Climate Change” (published in the January 29, 2006 New York Times) in response to an earlier op-ed piece entitled “Restoring the Sound.”



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