Northport Harbor Water Quality Protection Committee Meets at Town Hall
A meeting of the Northport Harbor Water Quality Protection Committee was held on March 16th at Huntington Town Hall to update concerned citizens on the status of proposed projects in the area.
The meeting included updates on dredging projects, the latest information on the toxic red tide that continues to plague Huntington waterways and the status of proposed upgrades to the Northport Sewage Treatment Plant.
Joe Morency from Save Our Harbors reported that the dredging of Centerport Harbor was completed and that approximately 35,000 cubic yards of sediment was removed and placed at other local beach locations for the purpose of beach nourishment. The need for the dredging was to deepen the entrance to Centerport Harbor from a depth of approximately six feet to approximately ten feet. The cost of the project was $1.5 million dollars. Mr. Morency also stated that Northport Harbor will be studied to evaluate the necessity of dredging at that location as well. Mr. Morency estimates that 100,000 cubic yards of material will need to be removed from Northport Harbor in order to restore safe navigation in the area. However this location, being a designated federal channel will require an in depth study from the Army Corps of Engineers. Dredging in Northport Harbor could potentially cost in the range of 4-5 million dollars.
Dr. Chris Gobler then gave a presentation on Toxic Red Tide that has plagued Northport Harbor, Northport Bay and Huntington Bay over the past few years. The main culprit of the incidences of red tide in the local waterway’s is the Alexandrium bloom. This bloom causes (PSP) known as Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning. PSP can cause various debilitating symptoms to humans including tingling of fingers and toes to a loss of control of arms and legs, followed by difficulty in breathing. Some people have experienced a sense of floating or nausea. If a person consumes enough poison, muscles of the chest and abdomen may become paralyzed. In rare cases death can result, as muscles used for breathing may become paralyzed. As a result of the presence of the bloom, shellfish closures have occurred in Northport Harbor in 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011. The suspected culprit with regard to the cause of this red tidal bloom is two-fold according to Dr. Gobler. One being poor water circulation and poor tidal exchange in the harbor in conjunction with wastewater fed nitrogen loading.
Wastewater induced nitrogen loading is suspected to emanate from the Northport sewage treatment facility as well as cesspools in the watershed that contaminate the harbor via groundwater underflow. The tidal bloom is expected to ramp up in later March and continue into April and May then ultimately subside once water temperatures increase to a level whereby the bloom becomes dormant.
Insofar as the Northport sewage treatment facility is concerned, Northport Mayor Doll stated that the plant will be upgraded in order to meet the 2014 Nitrogen standards as set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Plant upgrades will include the replacement of nitrogen filters, the replacement of old sewer lines and replace other pipes and manholes associated with the plant. The project is slated to cost roughly $9 million dollars and approximately $1.3 million is in place through grants. Legislator William Spencer stated that he is working vigorously to secure funding from Suffolk County in order to upgrade the plant but says he will need a unified effort from citizen’s to make the case to the County. Spencer said that the funding for this project is of extreme importance due to the public health impacts and economic impacts resulting from the plant effluent.
Story by Dan Fucci