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Jun 24, 2015 12:01 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

County Calls For Federal Assistance Following Second Bunker Die-Off

Two massive fish kills occurred within weeks of each other in Riverhead promting Suffolk County to ask the federal government for assistance.    COURTESY RED VAULT PRODUCTIONS, COREY ADAMS
Jun 24, 2015 12:09 PM

In the wake of a second large bunker die-off in western Peconic Bay, Suffolk County officials are asking for federal assistance to help local municipalities tackle the “nitrogen crisis” in local waters.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Regional Director Peter Scully and a platoon of county and state officials made the call for federal assistance at a press conference Sunday in Riverhead, near where hundreds of thousands of bunker have died in two large fish-kills this month.

While bunker die-offs are not uncommon occurrences, as the abundant fish are often chased into shallow waters by predators, scientists have said that low oxygen levels in parts of the Peconic Estuary, due to algae blooms sparked by nitrogen loading, have exacerbated the situation.

Mr. Bellone and the other officials said that more robust financial support from the federal government will be needed to effect quick changes in water quality in the Peconic Estuary, a federally designated estuary of national significance.

“We as a region, and as a nation, need to protect our federal estuaries, and we need wastewater infrastructure to do that,” Mr. Bellone said. “But to reverse this trend we must continue to invest in and upgrade our wastewater treatment infrastructure. To do that, we need additional assistance from our leaders at every level of government to help us combat this problem.”

The DEC and Suffolk County Department of Health are expected to issue a report on the causes of the two fish-kills early next month.

Stony Brook University scientists have said that blooms of a “red tide” algae species detected in western parts of the Peconics likely accelerated the deaths of the bunker. The blooms have been blamed, in part, to an increase of nitrogen loading coming from residential septic systems, road runoff and chemical fertilizers.

“If you own grass on the riverfront, you should not be fertilizing it. Period,” Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter said. “If you have waterfront property, do not fertilize it. Your moral obligation is to stop using fertilizers. We are doing so much to impair the estuary, and we are not giving fish a fighting chance to survive.”

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Great. Local polititians screw things up by catering to development intrests and then ask the feds for a bailout. I'm sure the folks around the country will be thrilled to know their tax dollars are going to fix the damage done by the Hampton's McMansions and other irresponsible land use.
By bird (829), Southampton on Jun 24, 15 7:22 PM
1 member liked this comment
Composting toilets anywhere near the shore.
By treeman (3), Hampton Bays on Jun 25, 15 1:01 PM
The simple reality is Long Island needs sewers around it's perimeter. The major offenders are the old houses with ring cesspools.

Sewer districts should be formed and construction funded by whatever means available. Connections should be bonded and incorporated into property tax bills to pay for universal hook ups.

There is no easy, cheap way out.
By 1eastquogueinusa (34), East Quogue on Jun 25, 15 5:13 PM
Legislation is needed to control the sale and use of fertilizers. I am not sure why Federal money is needed for that.
By AL (83), southampton on Jun 25, 15 6:55 PM

By yassar arafar (33), sag harbor on Jun 25, 15 9:30 PM