Rising nitrogen levels in Long Island aquifers a cause for concern

Sept. 25, 2013

MELVILLE, N.Y. — The nitrogen levels in Long Island aquifers have been rising since the 1980s, caused by storm runoff, fertilizer use, and outdated infrastructure.

MELVILLE, N.Y. — Rising nitrogen levels in aquifers on Long Island are making government officials and environmentalists in the area concerned, according to an article from Newsday.

Originating from a combination of storm runoff, fertilizer use and outdated infrastructure in sewer treatment plants and local septic systems, stated the article, the nitrogen levels have been rising since the late 1980s, according to Stony Brook University marine scientist Christopher Gobler.

Gobler cited a Suffolk County study that found nitrogen levels in the main Long Island aquifer rose 200 percent between 1987 and 2005 and although the current 3 to 4.5 ppm level remains below U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards of 10 ppm, it is expected to rise, according to the article.

Increased levels of nitrogen in drinking water can decrease oxygen in the blood, causing “blue baby syndrome” in infants or brain damage in adults exposed to very high levels.

It can also allow algae to grow rapidly, continued the article, reducing the oxygen in open bodies of water and killing marine life.

According to the article, in efforts to keep the nitrogen from rising to dangerous levels, local officials and environmentalists are trying to raise public awareness about drinking water contaminants, expand sewer systems and sewer treatment plants and pass legislation to prevent further nitrogen increases.

Read the full article here.