2008-07-18 / Letters

Nitrogen Abatement In Jamaica Bay

Dear Legislators,

I attended the Jamaica Bay Task Force (JBTF) quarterly meeting last night (July 1) at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn and I wanted to share some important environmental information with everyone.

As some of you know, Jamaica Bay is being overloaded with nitrogen from NYC's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) waste treatment plants. This is destroying the aquatic life and the marshes at an alarming rate in the Bay. The Bay is losing 35-45 acres of marshland a year. Currently, the DEP is discharging 30,000- 35,000 tons a day of nitrogen into the bay. At this rate this important community resource will cease to exist in our lifetime. This would be tragic. Scientists predict that, at the current rate, the marsh islands will completely vanish in less than 20 years. Adjacent to New York City, the Bay is one of the largest and most productive coastal ecosystems in the northeastern United States, and includes the largest tidal wetland complex in the New York metropolitan area…

Jamaica Bay's wetlands serve as flood protection and shoreline erosion control for the homes and business of the encircling neighborhoods of Brooklyn and Queens, home to more than 500,000 New Yorkers.

The Jamaica Bay watershed, which feeds the freshwater portion of the estuary, extends deep into Brooklyn, Queens, and Nassau County. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has included Jamaica Bay on its Section 303(d) impaired water list since 1998 because of violations of water quality standards relating to pathogens, nitrogen, and oxygen demand.

It was reported at the JBTF meeting that the NYS DEC is currently preparing a "white" paper to deal with this situation.

I believe it's important that NYS DEC use the full force of their oversight and enforcement powers to have NYC DEP lower their rate of nitrogen discharge and other pollutants into the Bay. I feel we owe this to our children and future generations of New Yorkers.

I also feel NYS DEC's enforcement action with NYC DEP should be as stringent as possible within the law… The City should be held accountable for this pollution and made to eliminate it completely or take actions to seriously mitigate the discharge of this life threatening pollutant to the aquatic life in Jamaica Bay.

In this regard, I would ask that you please contact DEC Commissioner Peter Grannis to ensure that NYS DEC brings NYC DEP into full compliance or have the City face serious ramifications and penalties for noncompliance.

DAVID M. QUINTANA

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