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    Sunday, April 14, 2024

    New water testing program to monitor Long Island Sound's bays, harbors

    Save the Sound recently announced that it has launched a new water testing program that will dramatically increase available data on the health of Long Island Sound.

    The bi-state nonprofit organization already issues an annual “report card” on the health of the estuary. Now, it will undertake the Unified Water Study: Long Island Sound Embayment Research to test water conditions in the Sound’s bays and harbors, the organization said in a news release. The project will test water at 16 sites on the New York side of the Sound and eight sites on the Connecticut side. Included are four sites in southeastern Connecticut: the Niantic River, the Mystic River, Mystic Harbor and Wequetequock Cove in Stonington.

    More than a decade of federally funded monitoring of the Sound has documented the destructive impact of nitrogen pollution, including algae blooms, red tides, loss of tidal marshes, and fish die-offs, as well as the incremental improvements brought about by wastewater treatment plant upgrades, the organization said.

    Recent research by Professor Jamie Vaudrey of the University of Connecticut and others has shown that conditions in the bays and harbors — where much of the public comes into contact with the Sound — can be different from conditions in the open waters, Save the Sound said. More testing on bays and harbors is needed to judge the effect of nitrogen on these inlets and what action is still needed to restore them to vibrant life.

    To answer these questions, Save the Sound led a collaborative process to design the Unified Water Study to rapidly and cost-effectively gather comparable data that will establish the relative health of each bay and harbor. To reach as many locations as possible, Save the Sound is training a wide variety of groups in the study methods. These “Sound Sleuths” include citizens, scientists, environmentalists and municipalities. Their findings will be published in future report cards and used to help direct restoration funding to the most stressed locations, Save the Sound said.

    “With federal funding of clean water programs facing an uncertain future, restoration of Long Island Sound is in our hands,” said Tracy Brown, director of Save the Sound. “Teams of Sound Sleuths will investigate the conditions of our bays and harbors, and offer data that can lead to restoration. Save the Sound is honored to lead these groups in this effort and we’re confident the results will provide a valuable roadmap to aid in the protection of Long Island Sound for future generations.”

    Vaudrey said nutrient pollution from septic tanks, sewer outfalls, and fertilizer use are having a negative impact on coastal waters, even when the source of the pollution is far inland. She is an assistant research professor in the Marine Sciences Department at UConn’s Avery Point campus in Groton.

    “Just as each person responds differently to the flu, each of our 116 bays and harbors has a unique response to nutrient pollution,” she said. “The Unified Water Study standardized methods allow us to assess the health of bays and harbors and compare their condition, giving us the local knowledge needed to tackle nutrient pollution.”

    Starting this month, the Unified Water Study will be conducted in 24 locations ranging from Queens, N.Y., to Stonington. There are 12 groups participating in this inaugural season, with more preparing to join the study in 2018, Save the Sound said. The trained corps of Sound Sleuths will be out on the water at dawn twice a month from May through October, measuring dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll a, temperature, salinity, macrophytes (aquatic plants and seaweeds), and water clarity.

    Science advisors for the study are: Vaudrey and Jason Krumholz, marine sciences research technician at Avery Point. Coordination is provided by Peter Linderoth of Save the Sound. Additional guidance has been provided by members of the Long Island Sound Study, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

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