New York City's visionary initiative to cut nitrogen discharge by 60%

Nitrogen discharge from New York sewage plants that impairs the Long Island Sound ecosystem will be cut by nearly 60% by 2017, under a new agreement between the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), reported the Environmental Defense Fund...

NEW YORK, Jan. 10, 2006 -- Nitrogen discharge from New York sewage plants that impairs the Long Island Sound ecosystem will be cut by nearly 60% by 2017, under a new agreement between the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), reported the Environmental Defense Fund.

This commitment will meet the goals of the Long Island Sound 2003 agreement, which builds upon the Long Island Sound Study's 1994 Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan. New York will become the first major city in the U.S. to reach for such an ambitious target, and the agreement is a model for how to restore our coastal ecosystems.

Environmental Defense comments:
"This issue has plagued our coastal communities for over 30 years," said Environmental Defense General Counsel Jim Tripp. "Environmental Defense applauds New York's leadership in pioneering a nitrogen removal plan that will serve as a model for the whole country."

"Too much nitrogen usually means too little oxygen. Important fish and shellfish species are literally suffocating in the Sound. This agreement will help them breathe easier," said Environmental Defense Marine Scientist Jake Kritzer.

"New York harbor and Long Island Sound once teemed with life, from dolphin to vast oyster beds," said Environmental Defense New York Regional Director Andy Darrell. "Cutting nitrogen flows from large New York City's sewage plants by nearly 60% is a huge step toward restoring the natural bounty of this region's waterways. This comprehensive commitment is the strongest of any major U.S. city -- and sets the standard for all other clean-water programs in the region."

Background:
New York City has agreed to retrofit four waste water treatment plants to remove 58.5% of the nitrogen from the city's wastewater. This decision will allow the state of New York to meet Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) nitrogen reduction goals, a target New York agreed to with Connecticut.

Nitrogen is a natural and essential nutrient in coastal estuaries that is necessary for the synthesis of proteins by plants and animals. When nitrogen supply is excessive, however, outbreaks or 'blooms' of aquatic algae occur. When these now over-abundant algae die, the bacteria that break down the dead algal cells likewise proliferate. The massive decomposition activity of these bacteria uses huge quantities of dissolved oxygen in the water, resulting in either hypoxia (i.e., very low levels of dissolved oxygen) or, in the most extreme cases, anoxia (absence of dissolved oxygen). When this occurs, aquatic organisms have difficulty breathing, and are more susceptible to disease and death.

New York DEC Press Release: www.dec.state.ny.us/website/press/nwrel3.html

Environmental Defense (www.environmentaldefense.org and www.oceansalive.org), a leading national nonprofit organization, represents more than 400,000 members. Since 1967, Environmental Defense has linked science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships to create breakthrough solutions to the most serious environmental problems.

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