Sunday February 10, 2008

Long-term monitoring
in western
Long Island Sound:
Temperature changes,
but maybe not what you'd expect

R. Lawrence Swanson

7:00 p.m. ESS 001

Sunday  March 9, 2008

The Forge River
Testimony to our Indifference or
Model for our Resolve

Kevin McAllister

7:00 p.m. ESS 001

Sunday April 13, 2008

Protecting Long Island's Groundwater

Nicholas Valkenburg

7:00 p.m. ESS 001

This Science Night series will consider Environmental Concerns that directly impact
Long Island and Metropolitan New York.

Link here to be placed on the mail or e-mail list to receive announcements.

Directions to ESS Building at Stony Brook University

Teachers and Professional Geologists can receive
In-service Credit

Link to previous offerings Fall 2007

Long-term monitoring in western Long Island Sound:
Temperature changes, but maybe not what you'd expect

Prof. R. Lawrence Swanson
Director of the Waste Reduction and Management Institute

Long Island Sound has suffered a 60 year decline in dissolved oxygen in its bottom waters. During late summer the levels of oxygen may be so low in the western area that bottom dwelling organisms cannot survive. It was generally thought that these low oxygen contents (hypoxia) were a result of inadequately treated sewage discharged into the Sound. This sewage encourages algae growth during early summer. Later in the summer the algae die and settle to the bottom. There they decay using up the dissolved oxygen. However, this six-decade decline continues despite New York City having eliminated routine raw discharge of sewage, upgraded sewage treatment to nearly complete secondary, and introduced nitrogen reduction.

In looking for potential causes for this continuing decline we found that long-term changes in physical oceanographic processes are having an impact. If there is a relatively large difference in temperature between the warmer surface waters, rich in oxygen, and the cooler bottom waters there is restricted mixing of the two due to the density difference. Wind, however, influences the extent of mixing. We have found a 60-year (1946-2006) decline in summertime bottom water temperature of the western Sound. The difference between surface and bottom water temperatures begins earlier each year. This increase in differences in temperature is a result of changes in wind direction over western Long Island Sound during the summer which has reduced the amount of mixing. Thus, hypoxia may continue to be a problem in western Long Island Sound in spite of the considerable efforts that have been made to upgrade the sewage treatment plants which discharge treated sewage to the Sound.

R. Lawrence Swanson received his Ph.D. in Physical Oceanography from Oregon State University in 1971.  Since 1987, he has been the director of the Waste Reduction and Management Institute (WRMI) of the Marine Sciences Research Center (MSRC), Stony Brook University, and since 2003 has been the Associate Dean of MSRC.  Dr. Swanson was a Senior Executive Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.  Prior to his appointment at SBU, he was with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and served in a variety of capacities including Project Manager of the Marine Ecosystems Analysis Program for the New York Bight; Director of the Office of Marine Pollution Assessment; and the Executive Director of the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research.

The Forge River
Testimony to our Indifference or  Model for our Resolve

Kevin McAllister
Peconic Baykeeper

Sunday  March 9, 2008

The Forge River, running between Mastic and Moriches is the largest tributary feeding Moriches Bay.  The Forge was abruptly thrust into the public spotlight in June 2005 when a whitish-gray plume consumed the river emitting foul odors.  Fish and crab carcasses floated on the water as juvenile eels rose from the depths to breath and blue crabs scuttling ashore to survive.  The Forge, once fertile spawning and fishing grounds is a river in distress.

As a catalyst for action, Peconic Baykeeper successfully petitioned the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to classify the Forge River and its tributaries as Impaired Waters for failure to support its best usage, namely shellfish growing, fish survival and contact recreation.  While the Forgeís recent distinction is indeed regretful, this designation has been the impetus to reverse decades of degradation.  Already it has prompted action at many levels, with the initial focus on an analysis of the factors that have led to its decline.  

The crisis on the Forge calls for nothing less than our greatest resolve to advance meaningful nutrient and pathogen reduction strategies as defined in the pending watershed restoration plan and Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).  Our legacy for the Forge will either be a model of success or a reminder of our neglect and indifference.   

     Kevin McAllister, a Long Island native, was selected in 1998 to fulfill an increasingly important role as a full-time professional dedicated to safeguarding the ecological integrity of our local estuaries.  As the Peconic Baykeeper and President for his organization, Kevin serves as an advocate, community educator and guardian for the bays while attending to the day-to-day business of managing a not-for-profit organization.

Prior to his current position, Kevin was employed in South Florida as an Environmental Analyst working in shoreline protection and habitat restoration.  His responsibilities included; development and implementation of coastal resource policy, shoreline stabilization and habitat enhancement projects.   Kevin also served as a coastal management advisor to local government and provided extensive inter-agency coordination, landowner education and coordination of volunteer restoration projects.

 Kevinís academic record includes undergraduate degrees in Natural Resources Conservation and Biological Sciences.  In addition, he earned a Masterís of Science degree in Coastal Zone Management.  As a well-trained coastal biologist with over 20 years of professional employment experience, Kevin is an asset to the field of Coastal Zone Management. 

Protecting Long Island's Groundwater

Nicholas Valkenburg

Sunday April 13, 2008 

Long Island obtains all of its drinking water and water for industrial and commercial use from aquifers which are geologic formations that contain groundwater.  The aquifer system supplying Long Island contains a very large quantity of water that is capable of supplying our needs for the foreseeable future.  While current withdrawal rates can be sustained well into the future, the quality of groundwater has become degraded in many areas.  To protect water quality, several special groundwater protection areas have been established by the NYSDEC.  Many types of contaminants affect groundwater quality; the sources of which have historically been septic tanks, cess pools, fertilizers, and industrial and commercial establishments. Several new compounds are emerging as issues.  Standard and recently developed technologies are used to cleanup contaminated groundwater ranging from pumping and treatment systems to in place remedial technologies that do not require the extraction of groundwater. Experience has shown that the best way to protect groundwater is to prevent contaminants from migrating to the water table. Groundwater cleanups take many years and are costly.  I will discuss Long Islandís groundwater aquifers, how contaminants enter the groundwater system, what kinds of contaminants have an impact, and how to cleanup contamination problems, including a local case history.

Nicholas Valkenburg is an expert hydrogeologist with over 30 years experience in managing supplies and cleaning up groundwater contamination.  He is a Vice President at ARCADIS, an international environmental engineering firm and heads its New York and New England operations.  Mr. Valkenburg obtained a BS in Earth and Space Sciences from SUNY at Stony Brook and an MS in Geology from the University of Toledo, Ohio.  He has worked on projects in many areas of the United States.