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Report shows North Fork mostly escaped fish kills this past summer

The North Fork for the most part escaped the fish kills that plagued the western portion of Long Island Sound, said Stony Brook scientist Christopher Gobler. 

In his 2022 assessment of water quality impairments for Long Island, Mr. Gobler said the island suffered a record number of fish kills this past summer, with 50 in three months. In most years, there are less than five. 

The report also identified 30 dead zones, 20 toxic blue-green algae blooms and a new harmful marine algal bloom across Long Island. Marratooka Lake and Wolf Pit Pond in Mattituck and Great Pond in Southold suffered from toxic blue-green algae blooms. Jockey Creek in Southold suffered from both diarrhetic and paralytic shellfish poisonings, which are both types of harmful blooms. 

In Riverhead, Meetinghouse Creek suffered diarrhetic shellfish poisoning, and gymnodinium and prorocentrum blooms. South Merrits Pond and Silver Brook Pond both suffered from toxic blue-green algae blooms, and Reeves Bay suffered from diarrhetic shellfish poisoning. 

The Peconic Estuary saw a cochlodinium bloom as well, although it was “significantly briefer than in 2021,” according to Mr. Gobler.

“The biggest driver of these events is high levels of nitrogen coming from land and the biggest source of that nitrogen in most places on the East End is old, on-site septic systems that leach a lot of nitrogen into groundwater and that groundwater then leaches into surface waters,” he said.

A Summer 2022 Long Island Water Quality Impairments map.

(Click to enlarge)

The best action individuals can take to address the issue is to upgrade their septic systems, he said. Since 2019, Suffolk County and the state have offered combined grants of up to $30,000 for residents to install an innovative and alternative nitrogen removal septic system, to make it less expensive for homeowners to replace aging cesspools.

More information about the grants can usually be found at www.reclaimourwater.info, but county websites have been down since a cyberattack in early September. 

Mr. Gobler also highlighted a recently published study from Stony Brook University scientists and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that shows water quality has a significant impact on nearby home sales, including for waterfront homes in Suffolk County.