2002-11-16 / Columnists

Sprayview Sticks and Stones

By Environmental Reporter Bernard Blum

By Environmental Reporter Bernard Blum

The idea of the "balanced aquarium" (taught in public schools) comes to mind with all those Jamaica Bay symposia, etc. for the "wetland islands fix-up agenda," including toxic dredge spoils use.

A further idea to consider is the "spiritual burden" of managers to be in partnership with the Almighty to manage (care for the Garden), his possessions (see Genesis 2:15).

So if Jamaica Bay is a ‘microcosm’ for the earth’s oceans – and Rockaway and the rest of the bay watershed ‘the land microcosm,’ what of "the balance" managed as a burden?

As best recalled in the balanced aquarium, the fish eat "enough" green plants and produce "enough" wastes like ammonia (and related compounds) and "enough" dioxide for plants to grow.

The green plants use sunlight energy to combine carbon dioxide with water to produce "enough" sugar (food) to feed fish. The oxygen given off from the process – as a waste – is provided "enough" for the fish (and plants) to release "enough" energy for growth once eaten and digested. It all balances out!

In the home aquarium the filter and aerator with feeding compensate if there is ‘not enough’ of the required conditions for packing a lot of fish into ‘less tank.’ And the currents generated make a uniform aquatic environment.

The tank fish go belly up if too much carbon dioxide builds up or too much ammonia builds up. Hobbyists learn of these problems quickly.

In the real world ‘Jamaica Bay microcosm aquarium,’ the NYC Department of Environmental Protection managers have not been removing "enough" ammonia and other nitrogen wastes and other pollutants from treated sewage water! So Jamaica Bay has been used as an ‘add-on.’ So, as an extension of the "built system" the islands have been bathed in a nitrogen-fertilized soup. So as a "treatment facility," can the Jamaica bay microcosm perform "enough" filtration services for the managers?

As the diagram shows, given that "enough" oxygen doesn’t travel far from the surface, and because a layering (or stratification) effect happens in natural waters, bottom layer waters of Jamaica Bay tend to be low in dissolved oxygen (DO) especially in warm water months. Too much organic material decay eats up this needed oxygen.

Wind aeration doesn’t mix up the layers "enough" to send "enough" oxygen down to these bottom layers.

Should the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, with cooperation of the ‘burdened managers’ be allowed to fill in deep holes in the bay to protect this layered low dissolved oxygen (DO) problems? Fish have been shown to feed in low DO layers and swim above them. So even if a problem is reported to exist in Norton Basin off Bayswater, there are "enough" fish there as shown by underwater photography.

At a recent City Council Oversight Committee Meeting on the islands, the "burdened Department of Environmental Protection managers" assured "enough" future plans to remove more nitrogen waste from sewage treatment plant effluents. Stay tuned…..

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