2011-03-25 / Top Stories

Jamaica Bay Advocates Finalize Deal

By Nicholas Briano


The mayor pictured last March when the announcement was first made to upgrade the wastewater treatment plants and reduce nitrogen discharge into Jamaica Bay. The mayor pictured last March when the announcement was first made to upgrade the wastewater treatment plants and reduce nitrogen discharge into Jamaica Bay. More than a year after the initial announcement, Jamaica Bay advocates scored a huge victory last week when they finalized a deal with the city to spend more than $100 million in upgrades for the wastewater treatment plant to limit nitrogen waste, restore marshlands and monitor water quality in Jamaica Bay.

The deal was first announced last March after the city and state negotiated with bay advocates that included the Jamaica Bay EcoWatchers, the American Littoral Society, NY/NJ Baykeeper and the National Resources Defense Counsel (NRDC). The groups argued that permit violations existed at the four city sewage treatment plants that discharge levels of nitrogen pollution into Jamaica Bay that kill marshland, pollute the water and affect wildlife.

The announcement, however, took more than a year to finalize, according to NY/NJ Baykeeper Executive Director Debbie Mans.

Mans says that even though the deal took a while to be finalized, all the terms of the original announcement have been preserved. Therefore, under the original $115 million agreement the New York City Department of Environmental Protection will upgrade the four sewage treatment plants surrounding the bay which will reduce nitrogen discharges through 2020. The changes will get enforcement help with stricter permit terms for the treatment plants. In addition, the agreement will dedicate at least $15 million towards marsh restoration over the next five years.

According to advocates, nitrogen discharges from the sewage treatment plants are the biggest contributor to water quality problems in Jamaica Bay. According to numbers provided by the NRDC, the plants discharge nearly 40,000 pounds of nitrogen into the bay daily. The results are algae blooms, unsustainable marine life and marshland deterioration. The marshlands have made a considerable comeback in the last decade thanks in part to work done by the EcoWatchers, among other advocates, as well as federal funding going towards restoration. The marshlands provide a natural habitat for wildlife but also serve as a flood barrier to the Rockaways and can help prevent shoreline erosion.

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