Infographic: Nitrogen Pollution Is Killing Long Island Ecosystems

Seagrass, shellfish, wetlands, and fish are dying in the Peconic Estuary and other Long Island bays.

One million people in Suffolk County, on Long Island, New York, use sewage ponds or tanks buried underground in the backyard to dispose of their toilet waste. It is a colossal number of people for such a small area.

These cesspools and septic systems are not designed to remove nitrogen from the waste. All that nitrogen, converted to nitrate and seeping into groundwater, is leading to an ecological mess once it enters Long Island’s bays and estuaries.

The graphic below shows the decline in seagrass in the Peconic Estuary, which is located at the eastern end of Long Island. Forty-three percent of the nitrogen entering the estuary is from septic systems and cesspools.

Peconic Bay Long Island seagrass toxic algae nitrogen pollution

Graphic © Kaye LaFond / Circle of Blue
Septic systems are the largest source of nitrogen pollution in Long Island’s Peconic Estuary. Click image to enlarge.

This graphic was made to accompany the article Ecosystems Are Dying as Long Island Contends With a Nitrogen Bomb by Circle of Blue reporter Brett Walton. Contact Brett Walton or by @waltonwater on Twitter.

 is both a scientist and a journalist, helping to drive Circle of Blue’s reporting with data and research. She holds an MS in Environmental Engineering from Michigan Technological University, and she brings proficiency in ESRI’s ArcGIS mapping software.

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