Though we get our seafood from the clean waters of the Atlantic Ocean off of Pt Judith, Rhode Island, and do not serve any products from Long Island Sound, we still do have a great degree of concern for the body of water that borders our local coastline. Over the years, Long Island Sound and its reputation have certainly taken their lumps. Pollution and illegal dispensation have done their part to make the Sound a less than desirable place to go fishing or to take a swim. As if this were not enough, trace amounts of toxic chemicals have been found in fish caught from Long Island Sound in addition to boaters dumping sewage within close proximity of where people go to swim.1 However, for the first time in years, there seems to be some new hope for Long Island Sound, and it all starts with the committed and conscientious citizens of the Connecticut and Long Island shorelines.
On September 17, the 26th annual International Coastal Cleanup Day took place, and many residents of Connecticut and New York played prominent roles.2 For the past nine years, the CT organization known as Save The Sound has served as a local coordinator for the Coastal Cleanup activities. A strong effort was put forth along all of Connecticut’s coastline from east to west. Many other non-profit organizations, such as schools, local rotary club chapters, and boy and girl scout troops also lent a helping hand.2
Last year, close to 20,000 lbs of trash and decay were removed from the CT shoreline on Coastal Cleanup day and this year everyone was determined to move that up to an even more staggering number, with the full results still waiting to be tabulated. Even though local residents and charitable groups work on beautifying Long Island Sound and its beaches throughout the year, Coastal Cleanup Day still looms large. As one volunteer put it, “The real impact of the day is that it’s worldwide [with] people uniting to clean up their waterways. It’s great to think that someone is cleaning up a beach in Stamford at the same time as when someone else is cleaning a beach in California or even China or Japan.”2
On September 24th, yet another cleaning event took place, as part of the festivities for National Estuary Day. An estuary is a body of water that is partially enclosed with at least one end being open to the sea and with at least one river flowing into it. Since Long Island Sound boasts all of these qualities, it qualifies as an estuary and is widely considered to be one of the most important in the entire nation.
Due to the destruction in the wake of Irene, these two events were especially needed this year. While the towns and professional organizations have cleared away much of the large debris, it is up to charitable organizations and caring private citizens to handle the rest.
Augmenting these cleanup efforts is a new law passed by the state of New York outlawing the dumping of sewage within the waters of Long Island Sound. This was recently announced by the EPA and when added to the fact that similar legislation was passed in 2007 concerning the Connecticut portion of Long Island Sound, the waters of the Sound are on their way to becoming a safer place to swim and fish. Vessels containing sewage are now required to dispense of their waste at designated coastal “pump-out stations”.3 While this will go a long way in the fight to save the Sound, larger problems concerning pollution from sewage treatment facilities and storm water runoff still remain.
The sewage dumping restrictions are still a big step in the right direction though, as this more than anything else has been polluting the areas in which people tend to swim.
Strong and focused efforts are continuing to be made to tackle all of the pollution issues at hand, as has been the case since 1994 when the first conservation and management plans for Long Island Sound were first laid.3 This latest ban is expected to spur momentum for more cleaning and restorative actions to be taken. Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the environmental activist group Citizens Campaign for the Environment said that this ban means “cleaner beaches, more edible seafood, and a healthier economy by keeping the bacteria out of the water.”3
When considering all of the current issues faced by Long Island Sound, it is very clear that it is still a long way from being out of the woods, but for the first time in generations, the light at the end of the tunnel is coming into sight.
1. Wayton, Michael Panelists: How Can We Make Long Island Sound Less Dirty?
Patch.com, September 20, 2011
2. Sadowska, Caroline
Connecticut Teams Up to Clean Up Long Island Sound
Patch.com, September 19, 2011
3. Navarro, Mireya
Boats Banned from Dumping Sewage in Long Island Sound
New York Times, September 6, 2011