DEC: NY Waters OK After NJ Sewage Spill
DEC: NY Waters OK After NJ Sewage
By Brian Magoolaghan
A NJ sewer line break, which pumped nearly six hundred million gallons of sewage into the New York Harbor, hasn't fouled up the waters off Rockaway's shores, and is not responsible for the mass of clams that recently washed up in Breezy Point, officials of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) told The Wave.
Following the Sayreville, NJ sewer spill, shellfish harvesting was suspended in an expanded area of NY waters as a precaution, but New York State's DEC Spokesperson Matt Burns said, "At no time was there a significant adverse affect on NY's shared waterways from the spill."
The clams washed up along the local shorelines, densely littering the Fort Tilden area, are "not uncommon" and were likely killed by other oceanic conditions such as tide or temperature, Burns said. QPX, a parasite that is not harmful to humans, but is fatal to clams does not seem to be the cause, according to Burns. The decomposing clams have been a problem for some residents - complaints of their strong odor have been called into City Councilman Joe Addabbo, Jr.'s office.
The massive sewage spill is not likely to harm NY waters because "cold weather is not conducive to bacteria survival," said Dan Lewis from the Bureau of Marine Resources (BMR), on Long Island. The BMR oversees NY's entire marine district, including all waters in the 5 Boroughs.
It is possible that the levels of fecal coliforms, measured as an indicator of water bacteria levels, will be elevated in NY. "The spill doesn't know state lines," said New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Spokesperson Amy Cradic. But, according to Lewis the "numbers by Sandy Hook (southwest of Rockaway's southern shores) are really not bad."
Though the coliform levels in other parts of NJ were many times the limit set for shell-fishing by the Food and Drug Administration, Ed Levine Scientific Support Coordinator for National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in New York City says nature should balance the problem. "The solution to pollution," he said "is dilution." Further, he said the ocean current pattern has been moving from NY to NJ, though weather conditions could change that.
After news of the spill was reported in the NY papers, some local surfers were reluctant to enter the ocean. Cynthia Reen, a Rockaway resident, outdoor enthusiast and surfer said she wasn't willing to risk exposure to potentially harmful sewage bacteria.
The DEC, based on NJ DEP water test results "doesn't feel testing in NY is necessary," Burns said. The waters which were part of the expanded shell-fishing closure caused by the spill have been reopened he said. The Raritan Bay Shellfish Transplant Program has been canceled for 2003, according to Burns.
Shellfish harvesting in city water is always highly restricted not because city water is permanently polluted but because there is greater potential for bacteria levels to rise above safety limits, Burns said.
It's impossible to ensure safe bacteria levels (for shellfish) in all of the city's water, at all times, Lewis said.