Save the Sound issued the following news release on May 1:
Save the Sound, Great Neck Water Pollution Control District (“GNWPCD”), and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (“NYDEC”) submitted a stipulation of discontinuance in an appeal by Save the Sound against the NYDEC and GNWPCD. The parties agreed to the discontinue after confirming that the plant’s nitrogen upgrades have been completed and the GNWPCD is no longer violating the nitrogen requirements of its Clean Water Act permits.
Save the Sound, based in New Haven, Conn., and Mamaroneck, New York, brought the appeal in fall 2012 in response to a steady record of violations at the plant. The plant missed federally-mandated nitrogen reduction targets in 2004 and 2009, and at the time of filing did not yet have the capacity to meet its 2014 targets. In the months preceding May 2012, the plant was dumping an average of 526 pounds of nitrogen into the Sound daily, more than double its permit limit of 238 pounds per day.
The District was also consistently violating its Clean Water Act permit limits for other pollutants, including Fecal Coliform, Total Residual Chlorine, Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD), BOD percent removal, Total Suspended Solids (TSS), and TSS percent removal.
“We’re pleased that the Great Neck plant has completed its upgrades and is no longer violating federal law by dumping excess nitrogen into Long Island Sound,” said Curt Johnson, executive director of Save the Sound. “It was one of the last sewage treatment plants on Long Island to meet its targets, and at the time of our appeal, Great Neck WPCD was in gross violation of the Clean Water Act, dumping more twice the legal limit of nitrogen into the Sound every day. We feel our lawsuit has met its objective in spurring the plant to finish its work by the 2014 deadline.”
Every year the western Long Island Sound basin suffers from extreme bouts of hypoxia, a dead zone so depleted of life-sustaining oxygen that marine life must either flee the area or suffocate. Nitrogen contributes to the hypoxic dead zone by fueling algae growth that uses up oxygen. In August 2012, dissolved oxygen levels in the waters between Nassau and Westchester counties, near where the GNWPCD’s plant is located, plunged to less than one milligram per liter, far below what most marine animals need to survive. The low-oxygen “dead zone” in the western Sound was the fourth-worst in two decades that summer.
“Hypoxia is still the biggest threat facing Long Island Sound’s ecosystem,” said Johnson. “There is more work to be done to fix it—several plants in Westchester County and New York City need to complete their upgrades. Only when all plants around the Sound have successfully reduced their nitrogen output will we start to see the dead zone heal and marine life in the western Sound rebound.”
Save the Sound recently released a report card that marks nitrogen reduction progress at all New York sewage treatment plants around Long Island Sound’s shoreline.