The city announced Monday two new initiatives that promise to keep the sensitive ecosystem of Jamaica Bay more protected from pollutants.
The city Department of Environmental Protection and state Department of Environmental Conservation have applied for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to declare the 20,000-acre wetland a No Discharge Zone, which would prohibit treated sewage from being pumped into the bay.
DEP will create new water monitoring stations at key areas of the ecosystem to make sure it stays clean.
“Making Jamaica Bay a No Discharge Zone and expanding the sampling locations of the Harbor Survey Program will improve water quality and protect the ecology and overall health of this national treasure,” DEP Commissioner Cas Holloway said in a statement.
The state was able to apply for the zoning designation because the bay has four pumping stations that serve 300 to 600 boaters, the minimum requirement from the EPA to grant the No Discharge Zone permit. Those boats are currently prohibited from discharging untreated sewage within 3 miles of the coast, but if the zone is approved, those boats will be prohibited from discharging treated sewage as well.
DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said the reduction in the sewage would help the bay recover from its current dire environmental situation. Over the last couple of decades, Jamaica Bay has lost huge amounts of its saltwater marshland due to pollution and excess nitrogen in the water that has been killing plants.
“Jamaica Bay is a national treasure that has suffered serious injuries which we are working to redress,” Martins said in a statement.
Holloway said the four new Harbor Survey Program monitoring stations installed in the ecosystem would also improve the water quality at two locations: Fresh Creek and Bergen Basin. The Fresh Creek monitoring station will check the water twice a month throughout the year, while the Bergen Basin station, along with the 22 previously installed stations, will test the water weekly during the summer and monthly at the other stations.
Dan Mundy, a lifelong Broad Channel resident and member of the Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers, said both new stations were key to repairing the damage in the bay because of their locations.
“Bergen Basin has a huge discharge pipe that lets out all of the rainwater in southeast Queens. Testing the waters of that would be good because if there is anyone putting out any chemicals into the water, they can pick it up,” he said.
The city has been working to reduce the nitrogen at the bay by upgrading its four wastewater treatment plants to discharge less of the chemical element and introducing new fauna and flora in the ecosystem that oxidize the water.
“They’re being very proactive and on board now with protecting the bay,” Mundy said.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@c
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