Clean Boating Tips to Protect Hempstead Harbor

Having a clean harbor enhances our quality of life. Many of us are boaters and there are steps that we can take to ensure that we do not harm the waters that we enjoy. Here are some tips.


Gas, diesel, and oil are toxic to aquatic plants and animals. A single pint of oil spilled on the water can cover one acre of surface area. Fish and shellfish are particularly sensitive to contaminants in the water. When fueling, do not “top off” the tank. There are devices that you can easily install on your fuel line to “whistle” when the tank is almost full. In any event, keep an absorbent pad handy to absorb any spills that may occur.


Human waste contains nutrients that can cause algae growth and loss of dissolved oxygen in the water. Always use sewage pumpout stations. Discharging sewage from your boat is prohibited in all of Long Island Sound and its bays and harbors.

Bottom Cleaning and Painting

Minimize the discharge of heavy metals found in soft-sloughing antifouling paints by using a less toxic, or nontoxic antifouling paint. Use non-abrasive underwater hull cleaning techniques to prevent excessive paint discharge.

When you scrape the bottom of your boat, place a tarp underneath and capture all of the scrapings and dispose of them properly. Copper and other compounds in the paint can contaminate the water and sediment in the harbor, greatly increasing the cost for dredging.

Boat Engines

When purchasing a boat engine, conside an electric engine or a less-polluting model. Note that four-stroke engines are better for the environment than two-stroke engines. On a traditional carbureted 2-stroke engine, when the piston engages its down-stroke, the intake and exhaust ports are wide open, allowing a hefty amount of fuel to slide by unburned. That translates into a 20 to 30 percent of fuel loss as it travels through the combustion chamber – and then is released directly into your favorite fishing spot.

Control Oil in the Bilge

Place absorbent pads or bilge socks underneath the engine and keep your engine well tuned.

Protect Wildlife

Proceed slowly in shallow areas to avoid causing shoreline erosion and destruction of habitat areas. Do not disturb wildlife. Every so often, whales, dolphins, and other majestic creatures visit our harbor – give them space!

Our harbor has come a long way in recent years but it takes “all hands on deck” to keep it that way. A good source for more information can be found on the following BoatUS website:

Thank you for doing your part!

Highlights from our 2021 Annual Water-Quality Report

[Note that due to the many variables that affect water quality, significant trends in water quality are not always evident when looking at a single sampling season’s data. Rather, statistically meaningful trends normally become evident only after sampling occurs over many seasons during a variety of conditions. In some cases, the data in the 2021 annual report compare parameters (such as rainfall and bacteria levels) that show expected correlations but in other cases, they display noticeable variability}. Here are some of the highlights. The full report can be found on our website under Documents.


• Levels for fecal indicator bacteria were lower at outer-harbor stations than near-shore and outfall stations, likely because they are less influenced by stormwater and other discharges from the watershed.

• Samples tested for fecal indicator bacteria at stations in Glen Cove Creek had levels that consistently exceeded the beach closure thresholds toward the end of the season and were later discovered to be related to a sewer line break.

• The outfall for the powerhouse drain had consistently high levels of bacteria for samples taken directly from the discharge.
• Results from both summer and winter monitoring at Scudder’s Pond have shown lower bacteria levels for both fecal coliform and enterococci as compared with pre-restoration levels.
• Hempstead Harbor beaches were closed due to high bacteria levels for 11 days during the season.


• Healthy DO levels (greater than 4.8 ppm) were observed in 79.3% of all surface and bottom measurements taken in 2021, compared with 83.8% in 2020.

• For bottom DO levels (which are most crucial to bottom-dwelling marine life), hypoxic conditions (less than 3.0 ppm) were observed in 9.1% of all measurements taken in 2021, a slight improvement over conditions observed in 2020.

• Hypoxic conditions were observed in none of the surface readings for the 2021 season.

• In 2021, there were no anoxic readings (less than 1.0 ppm).

• Hypoxic conditions occurred from the third week of July through early September, but at most stations, hypoxic conditions subsided by mid-August, a slightly shorter period than that observed in 2020.

• Hypoxic conditions were observed at stations CSHH #1-2, #4, #6-7, #15, and #16-17.

• Station CSHH #7 had the highest percentage of hypoxic readings for bottom DO levels in 2021 at 29%.

• The period of hypoxic conditions was shorter in 2021 than in 2020.


• The average bottom water temperature for the 2021 season was 20.42 deg. C.

• Unusual cooler surface temperatures occurred on September 3, 2021, likely due to heavy rainfall from Hurricane Ida.

• The average surface water temperature for the 2021 season was 20.91 deg. C.


• The average salinity in Hempstead Harbor was 2.34% lower in 2021 than in 2020.

• In 2021, Tropical Storm Elsa and Hurricanes Henri and Ida resulted in significant local rain events with notable impacts on salinity.

• Near-shore stations show stronger correlations between rainfall and average salinity than other stations, and in 2021, the changes in salinity at near-shore stations could be explained to a large extent by the amount of rainfall within 48 hours of sampling.

• The highest salinity recorded in 2021 was 27.15 ppm (bottom CSHH #16 on June 30), and the lowest was 14.23 (surface CSHH #7 on September 3)—exhibiting a larger range than seen in previous years.

pH –

• Average pH levels in Hempstead Harbor in 2021 were 7.77 at the surface and 7.64 at the bottom.

• Average surface and bottom pH levels in 2021 were comparable with long-term averages (2005-2021).

• The lowest (7.15) and highest (8.43) pH measurements for the season were recorded at CSHH #16.


• The average Secchi-disk depth for the 2021 season was 9.9% deeper than the 2020 average.

• Unusually clear water conditions occurred on June 2, 2021.

• The highest average turbidity measurements, for both surface and bottom, occurred at CSHH #7.
• Stations in the lower harbor and ones closer to the shore tend to have higher turbidity, while stations in the outer harbor tend to have lower turbidity. This is reflected in the 2021 data.

• In 2021, average total nitrogen was highest at outfall stations (CSHH #14A, #15A, and #8).

• In 2021, average total nitrogen ranged from 1.0 mg/L to 5.3 mg/L, while in 2020, average total nitrogen ranged from 0.41 mg/L to 5.8 mg/L.

• CSHH #8 had the highest average ammonia levels of all stations sampled; for each sampling date for the entire season, total nitrogen consisted of up to 66% ammonia.
• All stations tested in 2021 had at least one reading over the course of the season that exceeded the 1.2 mg/L total nitrogen threshold, considered very poor.

• The average total nitrogen for all but one station exceeded 1.2 mg/L, considered very poor quality.


• The numbers for many of the fish caught in Hempstead Harbor seines were up from 2013 (the year that the power plant substation that was located along the shore of the lower harbor was dismantled; see the previous section on the Glenwood power station monitoring report). Most significantly, the Atlantic menhaden (young of the year), which were not included in the 2013 seine catch, were up to a stunning count of 203,932 in 2015. In 2017-2019, the “bunker” totals were 12,086, 3,165, and 1,386, respectively; in 2021, the total was up to 7,815. (Note that in 2020, no seining was conducted in May and June because of COVID-19 delays; therefore, total catches and the number of species represented for the entire season are reduced compared with other years’ seasonal totals.)

• Significant seine catches in Hempstead Harbor for 2021 included bluefish (643), northern puffers (274), scup (aka porgies) (9,139), silversides (16,961), and killifish (786). Also of note, the number of blue crabs (61) was up significantly from previous years and corresponds with our monitoring observations.

• For commercial shellfish landings, the 2021 haul was down from the previous year, but still substantial, at 11,111 bushels of hard clams. The soft-shell clam haul increased to 12 bushels, and the oyster haul was a third of what it was in the prior year.

• In October 2021, HHPC contracted with Cashin Associates to conduct a shellfish density survey for Hempstead Harbor. The survey included 183 samples that were collected from stations throughout the harbor and were consistent with those used for the 2008 and 2013 surveys. The final survey report (issued on April 13, 2022) concluded that, overall, clam density had increased, with the highest number of clams per square meter in the lower harbor. The percent of seed clams by population was still very low compared with the 2008 finding, mean size of clams had also increased, overall indicating an older and therefore unstable clam population. No oysters were obtained in grab samples, although some were observed by divers who assessed the harbor bottom to create a sediment survey map.

• On January 17, 2021, large bunkers were observed swimming at the head of the creek at the dogleg section that spills out from Mill Pond. Several dead fish were on the rocks below the spillway, seemingly left as the tide went down. Freezing temperatures likely contributed to this bunker mortality.

• In February, a resident photographed Hempstead Harbor’s resident bald eagles in a snowy perch in Roslyn Harbor and reported that at the end of the month they had been observed mating. He also reported seeing a few red foxes in Roslyn Harbor, all looking in good health.

• By March 26, the ospreys had returned. Two new osprey nests were spotted around the harbor—one built precariously on top of a crane at Gladsky Marine Salvage in Glenwood Landing and another on the dock house of the Sea Cliff Yacht Club. There are 15 visible osprey nests along the harbor.

• In mid-May, we received reports of jellyfish in the harbor that seemed to have a red dot on them and other reports of clear jellies in the water off Sea Cliff beach. On May 19, we saw more than 40 small jellyfish carried quickly out of the lower harbor on an outgoing tide. Although they had some similarities to lion’s mane jellies that we have seen previously in Hempstead Harbor, there were several differences. The top of the bell was a deep orange-brown color in the center surrounded by a lighter orange color with a dark fringe, and there were no apparent long tentacles trailing from the underside of the bell. Kim McKown of NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, Marine Resources, and others helped with identifying them as early stages of lion’s mane jellies, which can also be clear—as seemed to be the case with the jellies seen off Sea Cliff Beach at about the same time in May.

• On June 2, we saw large comb jellies (sea walnuts), too numerous to count, in Tappen Marina. The following week, only two sea walnuts were observed near Beacon 11.

• On June 8, a resident reported observing two fledglings in the bald eagle nest in Roslyn Harbor. He also reported seeing two red foxes with two kits and many goslings and groundhogs in the area. At this point, we had not seen the youngest members of the bald eagle family, but we did observe two adults on June 23 during the monitoring trip to the lower harbor.

• On July 5, we received reports of dolphins in Oyster Bay. The next day, a pod of about 50 dolphins was seen in Hempstead Harbor near the Legend Yacht & Beach Club (the former Lowe estate) in Glen Cove at about 3 pm. During the next day’s monitoring survey, we noticed more bunker activity at the surface throughout the harbor, which may have attracted the dolphins.

• Throughout July, we saw the usual variety of birds: cormorants, mallard ducks, great egrets, a few snowy egrets, Canada geese, great blue herons (up to 12 on one day), one hooded gull, ospreys, swans, and terns. In early July, we saw one turkey vulture flying over Glen Cove Creek. On July 21, we saw one belted kingfisher, 3 killdeer, and 3 tiny piper types (possibly sanderlings). On the two trips to the lower harbor during June, we saw two adult bald eagles; on the second trip, we had our first sighting for the season of two juvenile bald eagles.

• On August 11, we noticed about 30-40 dead bunker floating by as we traveled to our monitoring stations. Most were very large and in varying states of decomposition. We also noticed about a dozen dead bunker on docks in Glen Cove Creek—brought up and eaten by birds. There have been large schools of bunker throughout the harbor. We saw large schools of bait fish and numerous blue crabs that seem to be unaffected by whatever was affecting the bunker. We did see a very large dead carp in Glen Cove Creek on August 11 (we’ve noted previously that some carp evidently make their way from Mill Pond and end up at the head of Glen Cove Creek, but this one was closer to the mouth of the creek, following an outgoing tide).

• In September there were coyote sightings in the Roslyn Harbor and Glenwood Landing areas.

• On October 6, a peregrine falcon was perched on the Gladsky Marine crane that has been a fixture in the lower harbor for years.

• On November 23, we received a report that an Atlantic right whale was spotted near the Throgs Neck Bridge. Bunker were present in Glen Cove Creek into December. On December 8, bunker were seen finning near the Glen Cove STP outfall, some swimming sideways, and some had copepods and algae attached to them.

Safer Ways to Kill Weeds

By Eric Swenson, Executive Director

Weeds are not just unsightly plants – they can cause problems such as allergies and can out-compete native plants that provide food and shelter for wildlife. But commercial weed killers can also cause serious harm to the environment (including Hempstead Harbor) as well as to human health. This article will provide you with some safer alternatives to killing weeds, much of it based on my own personal experience and experimentation.

The safest and most effective way is to simply pull the weed out of the ground by hand, with a hand trowel, or with any number of other tools designed for weeding. One that I have found useful is a “stand up weeder” which is a tool that looks like a pogo stick with only one pedal and a set of claws at the bottom. You place it over the weed, step on the pedal, and pull up the weed, roots and all. You can find these online.

Manual pulling however, is not practical where you have a large amount of weeds. In that case, there are a number of other methods that work, although not as permanently. You have many choices. These include:

Smothering – cover the weeds with newspapers or black plastic for a week or more until they die. If you use newspapers, you can cover them with mulch and walk away. The newspapers will eventually decompose.

Burning – there are torches that you can attach to a propane tank that you can then use to burn the weeds. It is like a low end flame thrower. It will burn the plants. I no longer use this method because it does not kill the roots so most weeds come back and it is very heavy to carry around a 15 pound propane tank. I also worry about starting a fire. I see that they now make electric versions of weed torches but have not personally tried these.

Boiling Water – for areas like cracks in walkways, carefully pouring boiling water will kill the leaves but not the roots. It is a good, safe, inexpensive short-term solution.

Lemon Juice – like boiling water, spraying lemon juice (such as bottled ReaLemon) will work temporarily. The natural acid, rather than heat, kills the leaves. It may take a day or two for the leaves to die.

Homemade Weed Killer – my favorite method is to make my own weed killer. The basic recipe is simple: 1 gallon of white vinegar + 1 cup of salt + 1 tablespoon of dish detergent. Don’t worry too much about the quantities – as long as all three are there, it will work. You then use a spray bottle or pump sprayer. I use a 4 gallon backpack rechargeable battery-powered sprayer that works better than any other method I have used. This method works best on a sunny day, as the natural acid will burn the plant and the salt will shrivel it up by sundown (the dish soap helps the solution stick to the weeds). You will be amazed at how well it works. Be careful around your flowers, vegetables, or shrubbery as you don’t want to kill them in the process. Most weeds will eventually return so you will need to repeat this process, but that is the same with commercial weed killers. Note that household vinegar is normally a 5% solution. They do sell industrial strength vinegars for lawns and gardens that are 15%, 20% or higher which will be more effective. They too can be found online. I recently bought some concentrate at 75% which needs to be diluted. You must be careful with these as they can seriously burn you. A 20% mix is the concentration that is mostly used by professional landscapers. Another alternative that would increase the effectiveness is to substitute borax for the salt (again use one cup per gallon). Finally, using a biodegradable dish detergent will be even better for the environment.

Using these methods are one easy way that you can help make the world a better place.

Can Seaweed Help Water Quality

Many of us see seaweed as little more than a nuisance (hence its name). But can seaweed help clean our local waterways? A project over the last year in Oyster Bay Harbor seeks to find out.

But first the backstory. Excess nitrogen is one of the major concerns these days for our harbors and bays. Too much can lead to algae blooms, some of which are toxic to humans. Those blooms can also lead to fish kills as the decaying algae use up oxygen in the water. At the same time, and on a larger scale, there is the issue of carbon dioxide emissions. While the oceans take up much of this C02, it also causes a chemical change in the waters’ acidity, which in turn causes a decrease in carbonate ions which many marine species (like shellfish) use to build their shells and skeletons. Worldwide, ocean surface waters have become 30% more acidic over the last 150 years.

Enter Dr. Aaren Freeman, a professor at Adelphi University, a scientist who has been studying kelp for decades. With the help of a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, he grew kelp at three locations in Oyster Bay Harbor over the last winter (it only grows here in the winter) – at the Theodore Roosevelt Marina in Oyster Bay, at the Bayville Marina in Mill Neck Creek, and at the Village of Laurel Hollow beach. He is also growing it at other locations on the south shore.

Since marinas are usually empty during the winter, they provide an ideal location, as they need to be harvested before the next boating season.

Kelp, which was native to Long Island waters and once widespread, only exists naturally in a few areas today due to development along the shoreline. He plants it on long lines where it grows rapidly (from 2 millimeters in size to up to 18 feet long by Spring). It is one of the fastest growing plants in the world.

A picture containing water, outdoor, bird, boat

Description automatically generated

“I planted the kelp on lines back in December of last year at four sites and it has been growing quite well,” said Dr. Freeman. “The major interruption that the coronavirus caused is figuring out how to sample and harvest the kelp.”

The kelp harvested will be used in a fertilizer study run by Hofstra University in collaboration with the Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan (LINAP) and the Town of Hempstead.

A picture containing outdoor, water, sitting, snow

Description automatically generated

The kelp sequesters nitrogen (70-80 kg/ hectare with lines spaces every 1.5 meters), which can then be used as a fertilizer when dried (which takes 36-48 hours). He has been drying it at the Town of Hempstead’s greenhouse. Students are looking at whether it takes up harmful quantities of heavy metals like arsenic and copper and pathogens like vibrio. For that reason, it is not marketed as a food product here at this point.
In some places, it is also used as a skin care product. Right now there are no markets. He expects to have a report by the end of the year, although that may be extended.

Dr. Freeman is not the only scientist farming and studying kelp for its impact on the environment. At the University of Connecticut, Dr. Charles Yarish has also been doing the same, but on a larger scale. He was even featured on 60 Minutes with Lesley Stahl. Dr. Yarish views kelp farms as the equivalent of forests in the water, as they are able to take up a large amount of CO2 as it is needed for their rapid growth. He has been growing shellfish in his kelp beds to see if they can do better at building their shells. The results are not in yet. He is also adding baby mussels on lines suspended in his kelp beds.

The bottom line is that we need to tackle water quality issues like nitrogen from many angles – such as installing state-of-the-art nitrogen reducing septic systems, reducing the amounts of nitrogen in fertilizer, or removing it from the water with kelp, all of us can play a role.

What An Environmental Bond Act Will Mean for NYS

By the NYS League of Conservation Voters

On April 1, 2020, the New York State Legislature included the Environmental Bond Act, also known as the Restore Mother Nature Bond Act, in the 2020 – 2021 state budget for a total of $3 billion. 

The Bond Act covers a wide range of environmental protection programs and initiatives including improving existing infrastructure to mitigate flooding, habit restoration, climate change mitigation, and increasing water quality. During the General Election in November, New Yorkers will be able to vote to approve the Bond Act, which would be hugely advantageous for sustainability and resiliency efforts in New York. 

The current breakdown of the programs within the Bond Act are: 

Restoration and Flood Risk Reduction: This goal of this program would be to improve infrastructure and protect vulnerable communities from flooding in the event of increased rates of severe storms. Floodplains and forest are essential natural barriers to mitigate flood risk and must be restored and maintained. Over the next decade, scientists have estimated $50 billion in damages from flooding, so reducing this threat is more important than ever before. 

The total funding is $1 billion, which includes:  

  • Voluntary buyout program: $250 million
  • Shoreline Protection: $100 million
  • Inland Flooding and Local Waterfront Revitalization: $100 million

Open Space Land Conservation and Recreation: Open spaces and recreational areas are essential for New Yorkers to have access to green places within the city. Investing in hatchery improvements and enhancing public sites for recreational fishing is essential in increasing hatchery production. Additionally, this program will assist farmers in becoming more resilient in the face of climate change and help them to reduce their pollution. 

The total funding for this program is $550 million:

  • Fish Hatcheries: $75 million
  • Open Space: $200 million
  • Farmland Protection: $100 million

Climate Change Mitigation: The Bond Act prioritizes the fight against climate change and protecting New York against climate threats. Green buildings are a large component of this as they would reduce carbon emissions, decrease pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, and limit energy use. 

The total allocated funding is $700 million:

  • Green Buildings: $350 million.

Water Quality Improvement and Resilient Infrastructure: Improving water quality and municipal stormwater systems will safeguard communities by increasing access to clean water and reduce public health risks. Every New Yorker deserves clean, drinkable water and this program will ensure that enhanced infrastructure reduces runoff from storms and controls any contamination.  

This program is funded at $550 million:

  • Water Infrastructure improvement act projects: $200 million
  • Municipal Stormwater: $200 million.

Other projects: Another $200 million has been allocated for a variety of other environmental initiatives that will work in conjunction and expand upon the programs outlined above. 

The Bond Act is a crucial piece of legislation for New York that encompasses many essential environmental programs. Together, these initiatives will reduce flood risk, increase public access to green spaces, improve fish hatcheries, help farmers, mitigate climate change, and improve water quality. 

Drones with Infrared Cameras Can Help Us Find Illicit Discharges

By Eric Swenson, Executive Director

One important aspect of keeping our harbors clean is to stop “illicit discharges”.  But first you need to find them.  One promising technology that is coming into its own is the use of drones with infrared “thermal imaging” cameras that can identify such discharges by detecting slight increases in temperature.  Since municipalities are required under their NYS stormwater permits (“MS4 permits”) to have a program to identify and eliminate illicit discharges, this technology may offer a valuable tool in their toolboxes.

Earlier this month, the Nassau County Soil and Water Conservation District awarded funds to Friends of the Bay in Oyster Bay to undertake such a project in Oyster Bay, Cold Spring Harbor, and Mill Neck Creek. Partners in the project are the Oyster Bay / Cold Spring Harbor Protection Committee, Walden Associates, and Harkin Aerial. 

Since illicit discharges from manmade sources typically emit more thermal energy (heat) than the surrounding water or soil they are discharged into, and since heat rises, modern day infrared cameras can detect these relative changes in surface temperature with a sensitivity up to 0.1 degrees F.  When mounted to a drone, a set of thermal images can be taken covering about 50 acres in under an hour.  Experience shows that the best time of day to do this is early to mid-morning when the temperature difference is greatest (before the sun heats up the land and water).

The drones also have a “regular” camera that can take simultaneous photos so that any “hot spots” found can be more easily located. The drone also logs GPS data. Particularly important to the process is the use of people trained and experienced in interpreting the photos as there can be false positives.

Walden Associates and Harkin Aerial, both based in Oyster Bay, have been pioneers in this technology.  In 2018, they conducted a study in the Village of New Paltz. Their work identified illicit discharges from residential sump pumps, leaking sewer main valves, discharges into fields and farmland, and outfalls into the Wallkill River.  

Locally, they will focus on the area around the Village of Laurel Hollow’s beach which has been frequently closed due to high bacterial levels; the Mill Neck Creek subwatershed area in the vicinity of Bayville’s “Stands” area where illicit discharges are suspected, and the subwatershed area around the Town of Oyster Bay’s Beekman Beach which also has experienced high bacteria levels.

This project is believed to be the first of its kind on Long Island.  If successful, this may also help us in Hempstead Harbor.

A Corona Virus / Earth Day 50 Reboot

By Eric Swenson, Executive Director, Hempstead Harbor Protection Committee

Fifty years ago, as part of the first Earth Day, I and fellow students tied ropes to a VW Beetle and pulled it from Locust Valley village to the high school.  I guess we wanted to show that you didn’t need to use polluting fossil fuels. Classes were suspended for the day and environmental workshops were held instead. It was an event that rebooted the nation and now protecting the environment is a multi-billion dollar industry. It was partly why I am doing what I do today.

As we reflect on that monumental anniversary, we are now faced with another event that is rebooting our society – the Covid-19 pandemic.  Ironically, the worldwide shut down of nonessential businesses has also cleaned our skies and waters just in time for this event. Smog has cleared over northern Inda, China, and even the US. In Venice, you can now see to the bottom of canals. Without humans to bother them, pandas in the Hong Kong zoo have mated for the first time in 10 years. Nature has a chance to breathe again, at least temporarily. Lesson #1: nature will heal itself if we give it a chance.

Just as society learned a good lesson from that first Earth Day, let’s turn the mandated pause of the pandemic into a new beginning.

Just look at how fast this virus spread around the globe.  In a few short months, it has spread to virtually the entire planet and as of April 13th, 1.8 million people have been infected and over 114,000 have died. Lesson #2: what we do to our environment here soon impacts the entire planet. 

Excess fertilizer can runoff into stormdrains and into Hempstead Harbor and cause algae blooms.  Do you really need to fertilize? Cornell Cooperative Extension (the experts) say that if you leave your grass clippings on the lawn, there is no need to fertilize an established lawn.  After all, grass has existed for millions of years before the advent of commercial fertilizer.  Do you really need those “flushable wipes” that never should be flused anyway?  Humans survived for hundreds of thousands of years before their advent. You can too.

We’ve suddenly become acquainted with Zoom and other teleconference programs where we can now meet and talk without every attendee getting into fossil fuel-guzzlers to sit around a table to do the same thing.  Let’s use that as much as we can.  It will give us more free time to tend to our organic vegetable gardens that will also save us trips to the supermarket and, as a bonus, give us a little immune-boosting Vitamin D while we get some exercise in the sunshine.

Being confined at home has brought many of us out on long walks.  Keep it up. Walk down by the water. The Town of North Hempstead recently expanded its harbor trail. There is also a nice new trail from the middle of Roslyn village on the east side of the harbor. Reconnect with nature.  We’ve also had more time to read. Keep that up too.  

If nothing else, the rapid spread of this virus should bring home the need for combating climate change.  CO2 spreads just as quickly and is causing severe weather changes, warming our waters, and causing sea level rise.  Lesson #3: yust as this virus is only contained when every one of us practices social distancing and temporarily shelters in place, combating climate change requires all of us to do our part – it is not simply government’s job, or industry’s job.  In the spirit of the first Earth Day, let’s make a new commitment to do our part for the Earth.

Emerging Contaminants – Should We Worry?

When the Hempstead Harbor Protection Committee was founded in 1995 to protect the water quality of Hempstead Harbor, the main concerns were bacteria levels and excess nitrogen as these could respectively cause beaches to close and lead to low dissolved oxygen levels that could harm wildlife and cause algae blooms.

While these remain issues of concern, we now have other pollutants to worry about which are referred to as “emerging contaminants”. Of the emerging chemicals, the main focus now is on 1,4-Dioxane and Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (collectively known as “PFAS”) as these are being found virtually everywhere. This article will provide a basic overview of these substances.


1,4-Dioxane is an emerging contaminant found in Long Island’s groundwater (which ultimately flows to our waterbodies). It is a synthetic organic compound not found in nature. 1,4-Dioxane is listed as “likely to be carcinogenic to humans,” and has been linked to tumors of the liver, kidneys, and nasal cavity. 

Originally,1,4-dioxane was used as an industrial solvent stabilizer and found widely in paints, primers, varnishes, degreasers, and inks. Although it has been phased out of use in some of these applications, many still contain it. 1,4-Dioxane does not easily degrade or break down in the environment and is highly mobile in soil and groundwater.

Perhaps of greater concern is that 1,4-Dioxane is also found in nearly halfof personal care products, including laundry detergents, dishwashing soaps, shampoos, cosmetics, deodorants, and body lotions, including baby wipes and baby shampoos. It exists in these products, not as an ingredient itself, but as a byproduct of the breakdown of their ingredients. Because of this, you will not see it listed as an ingredient on the labels. To know if a product is likely to contain it, look for the names of ingredients which include 

“-eth” or “-oxynol” in part of their names, such as “sodium laurethsulfate.” 

Some laundry detergents have been found to have the highest levels of 1,4-dioxane of any consumer products, with levels over 50 parts per million, a concentration equivalent to over 100,000 times the EPA’s Cancer Risk Guideline for drinking water. Because of this, laundromats are a potential sources of 1,4-dioxane contamination. 

Currently there is no federal drinking water standard specifically for 1,4-dioxane. On July 8, 2019, Governor Cuomo announced that the NYS Department of Health agreed to adopt the nation’s most stringent drinking water standard for 1,4-Dioxane as well as for PFAS – 10 parts per trillion (US EPA’s guidance level is set at 70 parts per trillion). The Health Department is beginning the regulatory process for adopting these enforceable standards. Also, in February of this year, the NYS DEC issued a memorandum requiring review and/or testing of groundwater at current and past remedial sites for these contaminants. In addition, soil imported to a site for use in a soil cap, soil cover, or as backfill must be sampled for both types of contaminants.

The Suffolk County Water Authority is piloting a new system for the removal of 1,4-dioxane from drinking water. Conventional carbon based filtration systems do not adequately remove 1,4-dioxane. This new pilot system utilizes a process known as advanced oxidation. Smaller trials using advanced oxidation have demonstrated success in removing the chemical.


Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals that include PFOA and PFOS, and others. Both chemicals are very persistent in the environment and in the human body – meaning they don’t break down and they can accumulate over time. There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse human health effects. They have been manufactured since the 1940s and 

can be found in food packaging, water-repellent fabrics (such as Gore-Tex), non-stick coatings (such as Teflon), fire-fighting foams, and even food (such as animals and fish that have consumed them).

Certain PFAS chemicals are no longer manufactured in the United States as a result of phase outs including the PFOA Stewardship Program in which eight major chemical manufacturers agreed to eliminate the use of PFOA and PFOA-related chemicals in their products and as emissions from their facilities. Although PFOA and PFOS are no longer manufactured in the United States, they are still produced internationally and can be imported into the United States in consumer goods such as carpet, leather and 

apparel, textiles, paper and packaging, coatings, rubber and plastics.

Certain PFAS can accumulate and stay in the human body for long periods of time. There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse health outcomes in humans. The most-studied PFAS chemicals are PFOA and PFOS. Studies indicate that PFOA and PFOS can cause reproductive and developmental, liver and kidney, and immunological effects in laboratory animals. Both chemicals have caused tumors in animals. The most consistent findings are increased cholesterol levels among exposed populations, with more limited findings related to low infant birth weights, effects on the immune system, cancer (for PFOA), and thyroid hormone disruption (for PFOS). The US EPA has determined that there is “suggestive evidence of carcinogenic potential” for PFOA.

On July 8th, the Governor also announced the that $370 million in grants will fund the planning and development of new local infrastructure projects to combat emerging contaminants (including $30,000 to the Roslyn Water District for 1,4-dioxane treatment planning). In addition, $27 million was awarded to nine Long Island projects to remove emerging contaminants from drinking water (including the nearby Oyster Bay Water District).  While this sounds like a lot, it is only the beginning of a long and expensive process to protect us from these ingredients. Until these contaminants are fully removed from all products, your purchasing decisions as a consumer can certainly help keep our waters clean and your family healthy.

Now is the Time to Address NYS Wastewater Infrastructure Improvements and Funding

Throughout New York State and across the nation, the very infrastructure that keeps our society functioning (such as roads, bridges, drinking water systems, wastewater systems, and transit systems) is in trouble. 

Soon you may start hearing more about proposed Federal infrastructure funding as Congress gets around to this issue. It is important that any such legislation adequately address wastewater in a way that local governments can take advantage of.

In 2017, the New York State chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers released a “report card” for the state’s infrastructure (covering 9 types of systems) and based on eight critical criteria: capacity, condition, funding, future need, operation and maintenance, public safety, resilience, and innovation. Overall, the state’s average grade was a “C-“.  The worst score was for given to wastewater (i.e. sewage) systems. It scored a “D”. 

This article will primarily focus on New York State’s wastewater infrastructure needs and on recent proposals from the White House for dealing with infrastructure needs. 

The information for this article was gathered from the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Center for Watershed Protection, the University of North Carolina School of Government’s Environmental Finance Center, and the White House’s Legislative Outline for Rebuilding Infrastructure in America. 

Across New York State, 610 small and large wastewater treatment facilities serve 1,610 municipalities. These facilities, which collectively serve 15 million people, are dedicated to keeping water clean and safe and range in size from New York City’s facilities that process 1.3 billion gallons a day to small village systems that handle less than 100,000 gallons a day. The only wastewater treatment facility on Hempstead Harbor is Nassau County’s Glen Cove Wastewater Treatment Facility, which currently handles 3 million gallons a day and has a capacity to handle up to 5.5 million gallons a day.

Aging infrastructure has become a critical problem for the state – 1 in every 4 of the state’s wastewater facilities are operating beyond their 30-year useful life expectancy, wastewater treatment plant equipment also averages 30+ years old, and 30% of the 22,000 underground miles of sewers are 60+ years old and operating beyond their useful lives. To repair, replace, and update New York’s wastewater infrastructure would cost $36.2 billion over 20 years. New York’s wastewater funding program is simply insufficient to drive even half of the reinvestment needed in infrastructure; for every dollar needed only 20 cents is provided to clean New York’s water. 

The Glen Cove wastewater plant has been upgraded over the years and is considered state-of-the-art but some of the sewer lines and pumping stations that convey sewage to the facility are aging just like other systems around the state.

While these wastewater plants in New York are currently meeting baseline technology limits, a growing number may no longer meet these standards as their infrastructure ages beyond its expected useful life. According to a NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) survey there are 22,000 miles of sewers, more than 30% of which are more than 60 years old and beyond their expected useful life. In addition, 25% of New York’s wastewater facilities are operating beyond their 30-year useful life expectancy.

The cost of repairing, replacing, and updating this wastewater infrastructure is conservatively estimated to be $36.2 billion over the next 20 years. In the past, the federal and state governments provided significant funding for infrastructure repair and replacement, but this is no longer true today. In the 1990s, the federal Construction Grants Program was replaced by a low-interest loan Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) program, which requires locals to match federal investments making it harder for many communities to address their infrastructure needs. 

From the Fund’s inception through 2012, the CWSRF financed over 1,550 projects totaling over $12.5 billion, using a total subsidy of over $2.2 billion. While New York’s CWSRF program has been very well-managed and continues to provide necessary funding for municipalities, the funding mechanism is simply insufficient to drive even half of the reinvestment needed in infrastructure. For example, in 2013, only $1.4 billion of the $6.6 billion in identified needs were funded which means for every dollar needed only 20 cents was provided to clean New York’s water. 

The White House’s “Legislative Outline for Rebuilding Infrastructure in America” which was released early this year, outlines the President’s proposed steps to encourage increased state, local, and private investment in infrastructure. While the plan outlines programs for all types of infrastructure, this blog post provides a quick overview of the four proposed programs with relevance to water infrastructure.

While the White House’s Infrastructure plan proposes a significant influx of federal funds, these programs seek to attract non-federal revenue streams, encourage innovation, and increase involvement from the private sector.

A key principle of the plan is to encourage states, tribes, and localities to “move towards a model of independence” from the federal government. As such, while the proposed programs would make federal funds available, they also require significant investment at the local level. In New York State, tax caps on municipal budgets (which the legislature is proposing to make permanent) may pose a significant barrier to the ability of municipalities to take advantage of these funds. 

Water infrastructure (including drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater facilities) are identified as eligible infrastructure projects in four of the proposed programs. These are:

  1. Incentives Program 
  2. Rural Infrastructure Program
  3. Transformative Projects Program
  4. Expansions to Existing Programs (WIFIA and CWSRF)

Incentives Program

The Incentives Program would include $100 Billion and administered by the Department of Transportation (DOT), US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and

is designed to use grants to encourage increased state, local, and private investment in infrastructure. The goals of the program are to attract significant new, non-Federal revenue streams, leverage Federal investments, and increase economic growth. Incentive Grants would not exceed 20% of new revenue, and the recipient would be required to achieve milestones toward obtaining increased revenue prior to receiving the grant award.

Rural Infrastructure Program

The Rural Infrastructure Program would provide $50 Billion of targeted investment into rural communities where it is needed to grow economies and enhance the health and safety of residents. 80% of the funds would be provided to each state to be distributed as block grants. 20% of the funds would be reserved for rural performance grants (areas in rural areas with populations of less than 50,000). In order to apply, a state would be required to create a comprehensive Rural Infrastructure Investment Plan that details how the intended projects leverage state, local, and private sector investment.

Transformative Projects Program

The Transformative Projects Program would allocate $20 Billion to be administered by the Department of Commerce, in partnership with other federal agencies. It is meant to encourage “bold, innovative, and transformative infrastructure projects that could dramatically improve infrastructure”. The program is intended to support projects that are capable of generating revenue and provide significant public benefits, but that carry risks that would typically deter private sector investment.  This program could be used for projects that improve performance, reduce user costs or introduce new types of services. Clean water and drinking water projects would be eligible.

Funding would be available under 3 tracks: demonstration (30% of eligible costs), project planning (50% of eligible costs), and capital construction (80% of eligible costs). The program would also provide federal technical assistance under any of the tracks.

Adjustments to Existing Water Infrastructure Programs

In addition, increased funding would go to existing federal programs including the Water Infrastructure and Innovation Act (WIFIA) and the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CSWRF).

Expansion of WIFIA would remove the current lending limit of $3.2 billion and would also eliminate the requirement for borrowers to be community water systems. It would also reduce the requirement to obtain rating agency opinions from two to one and allow for reimbursement of costs incurred prior to the loan closing. Expansion of the CWSRF would make funding available for privately owned public-purpose projects (currently, only publicly owned treatment works are eligible).

For more details, see:

Army Corps Announcement About Tidal Gate Study


Dear NYNJHAT Study Stakeholders,

Thank you for your thoughtful comments sent during the extended Scoping Period for the NYNJHAT Study this past year. Responses to your comments will be shared in the Public Engagement Appendix to the Interim Report that the NYNJHAT Study team is preparing for release on February 19, 2019. This Interim Report is being provided to share these responses as well as study information that has been collected and analyzed on the various conceptual alternatives under evaluation in the study.  This report is not required by Corps policy or regulation, nor is it identified as a an agency decision document, but rather is intended to share interim study information as the Corps, in partnership with the States of New York and New Jersey as well as the City of New York, work towards identifying the tentatively selected plan early in 2020. 

During the Scoping Period the public expressed eagerness to learn more about the Study, including how the alternative concepts could address the substantial and pervasive coastal flooding problems that face this vast region, including sea level rise, and a desire for the public to meaningfully engage in the study before decisions were made. In order to facilitate this, the study team will release this Interim Report and hold a series of Public Information Meetings throughout the study area associated with it. 

Additionally, we have updated our website (new shorter URL: with more information to answer some of the common questions received. Information about the Corps’ project, coastal storm risks facing this region (including those from sea level rise), and how the alternative concepts address these ambient, frequent and infrequent coastal flooding risks is available on the website and discussed in more detail in the Interim Report.  On or soon after February 19, 2019, this Interim Report will be available via this website.

The Corps welcomes any input you may wish to provide related to this study as detailed in the Interim Report. There is no comment period or deadline for providing feedback.  However, comments received earlier (e.g., within two weeks of our last planned public meeting, the end April) will be of most value in helping to guide future analysis as we work towards identifying the tentatively selected plan.  As always, should you have comments or thoughts on this study later in the year, we welcome those comments then as well.  Given the great concern and interest in this study, our team plans to exchange information more frequently via the website, social media and public meetings through this year and future years of the study.

Full text of press release is below.
Thank you,The NYNJHAT Study Team

Press Release (below)-January 15, 2019

Army Corps Announces Release of Interim Report for New York and New Jersey Harbor & Tributaries Study

NEW YORK – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District, is releasing an Interim Report for the NY & NJ Harbor and Tributaries Study on February 19, 2019.  State and city partners that contributed input on the interim report include the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and the City of New York.

Historical storms have severely impacted the New York-New Jersey Harbor region. In response to these storms, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is investigating measures to manage future coastal flood risk in ways that support the long-term resilience and sustainability of the coastal ecosystem and surrounding communities, and reduce the economic costs and risks associated with flood and storm events. The study team has prepared an Interim Report to present an array of alternative concepts, based on USACE technical analyses conducted up through 2018, along with preliminary costs, benefits and environmental considerations, and to identify data gaps, key uncertainties, and factors that warrant further investigation because of their potential to affect plan selection.  

The concepts discussed in the Interim Report will include consideration of adaptation strategies for a range of future sea level rise projections, to ensure long-term resiliency in the face of uncertain future conditions.  As required by Council on Environmental Quality’s Principles, Requirements and Guidelines for Water and Land Related Resources Implementation Studies, all reasonable alternatives that meet the purpose and need will be considered.  Public and agency feedback on the Interim Report will inform the next round of investigations and modeling needed to identify a Tentatively Selected Plan for the upcoming Draft Feasibility Report and Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement. 

Opportunities for the public to engage in the study process will include public meetings in March and April of 2019 throughout the study area.  
You may find additional information about this study at the project UNCLASSIFIED