02/21/13 6:00am
02/21/2013 6:00 AM

To the Editor:

Over the past number of years Peconic Bay has been subject to a number of brown tide events. These brown tides are examples of HABs, or harmful algal blooms. 

The brown tide is an explosion of algae that reduces the light penetration through the water and causes sea grass and other bottom-growing organisms to slow down or die off. This was a part of the scallop loss, among other things. Importantly, though, human health was not threatened. This past summer there was a new harmful algal bloom in Peconic Bay, a “rust tide” or possibly the start of a red tide. I saw this “rust” tide myself for the first time in many years of bay watching. It was rusty streaks in the water and not yet widespread over the bay.

This is an algal bloom that is very different from the brown tide. Is it preliminary to the red tide? We don’t know, but I certainly worry. The red tide can kill fish and cause floating carcasses to create a horrible smell up and down the beach as well as litter the beach with dead fish. I witnessed this mess in Sarasota, Fla.

These HABs are directly tied to pollution of our surface and groundwater. Our out-of-control septic discharge and cesspool waste are a large part of the problem. This is not nature running amok, it’s us.

It would behoove us to pay attention to these HABs and to be aware that going from our brown tide and rust tide to the very damaging red tide may not be a large leap. The old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure applies here. Let’s pay attention and act now and save the bay before it is too late.

Howard Meinke, Laurel