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Jun 9, 2015 3:16 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Brown Tide On The Rise In Moriches, Shinnecock Bays

Jun 10, 2015 1:08 PM

A harmful algal bloom has been building in the bays along the South Shore since last month, according to researchers at Stony Brook University.

The bloom, known as a “brown tide,” has swelled to more than 250,000 cells per milliliter of water in both the Great South Bay and Moriches Bay this month, as well as 217,000 cells per milliliter in Quogue’s Quantuck Bay and 68,000 cells per milliliter in western Shinnecock Bay, according to data gathered by Stony Brook Southampton professor Dr. Chris Gobler at his laboratory at the Shinnecock Hills campus.

Any concentration of more than 50,000 cells per milliliter of brown tide algae is considered harmful to marine life, particularly shellfish.

The timing of this outbreak could prove particularly problematic for the area’s hard clam population, which is in the middle of its annual spawning season, according to Dr. Gobler.

Brown tide, or Aureococcus anophagefferen, has become a regular occurrence on the East End for the past 30 years. During instances of brown tide, bay waters are overtaken by a coffee-colored cloud of algae that blocks sunlight from reaching eelgrass beds, killing the beds and subsequently harming the shellfish that grow in them.

At 262,000 cells per milliliter of water, eastern Moriches Bay had the second-highest density of brown tide behind Patchogue Bay, which had 273,000 cell per milliliter of water. Quantuck Bay had the third-highest concentration, and western Shinnecock had the fifth-highest.

In a press release issued Tuesday morning, Dr. Gobler blamed brown tide for the demise of the once-mighty scallop fishing on Long Island, adding that the repeated deterioration of eelgrass beds due to brown tide outbreaks has prevented the industry from making a full recovery.

Brown tide blooms that arise in June or July typically remain in the bays until late summer when the water temperatures get above 70 degrees, which could pose a problem for the newly spawned clams, Dr. Gobler said. He noted that a 2013 bloom did dissipate on its own in June and prior to water temperatures rising.

Dr. Gobler and other scientists have linked the rise in brown tide in the South Shore bays to nitrogen loading caused by household septic systems, and stormwater runoff carrying fertilizers and other pollutants into the groundwater and estuary system.

“We have learned a lot about brown tide since the first harmful blooms in 1985,” Dr. Gobler wrote in the release. “We know our South Shore bays are the most vulnerable, as they are shallow, poorly flushed, and are rich in organic nitrogen. We also know that the recurrence of these blooms has thwarted the recovery of the hard clam fishery on the South Shore, despite many years of restoration efforts.”

Unlike last month’s “red tide” bloom, which caused the State Department of Environmental Conservation to temporarily close western Shinnecock Bay to shellfishing, brown tide blooms are not considered toxic to humans, DEC spokeswoman Aphrodite Montalvo said, adding that the bays will remain open to shellfishing.

May’s red tide bloom contained a biotoxin called saxitoxin, which has been known to poison shellfish and cause humans who consume the tainted shellfish to get sick.

“The DEC does not need to take any action regarding this,” Ms. Montalvo said of the brown tide bloom. “It’s not a hazardous bloom, so it doesn’t pose any threat to human health.”

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By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Jun 9, 15 6:34 PM
And on Main Street Hampton Bays too!
By Babyboo (293), Hampton Bays on Jun 9, 15 6:55 PM
Dr. Gobler and other scientists have linked the rise in brown tide in the South Shore bays to nitrogen loading caused by household septic systems and stormwater runoff carrying fertilizers into the groundwater.

Long Island needs to build wastewater treatment plants and regulate fertilizer use. Phosphorous is controlled and use regulated in the Chespeake Bay watershed. Time has come for Long Island to do the same.
By Baymen87 (135), Lugoff, SC on Jun 9, 15 9:31 PM
3 members liked this comment
This stuff thrives on urea.

Any questions?

Perhaps we need to make biopolymer coated urea mandatory to control nitrogen release in the fields, and on lawns. As far as the septic is concerned maybe using some type of bacteria which could thrive in a anaerobic septic tank or cesspool may be an alternative. However, the latter (biocontrol) may be playing with fire with such strains as Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jun 9, 15 10:26 PM
How about sewer systems like they have up Island and treatment plants
By They call me (2826), southampton on Jun 9, 15 11:15 PM
Until the Town Board grows a spine and enacts strong regulations for fertilizers, run off problems and septic systems, we will be having these blooms. Prohibit fertilizer use within 150' of water. Require farmers to contain farm field runoff. Require upgrading septic systems to get building permits for new work on existing structures. New builds should have state of the art septic systems - not just 8 BR and 10.5 baths.
By Crabby (63), Southampton on Jun 10, 15 11:53 AM
2 members liked this comment
Unfortunately it's not that simple - one of the biggest road blocks is the Suffolk County Health Department. They have been gunshy with approving state-of-the-art sanitary systems after they greenlit cromaglass systems, only to find out they were in many cases worse than standard septic systems.

The Town could require only new state of the art systems - but the County won't approve them. The County is getting better however they are still lagging behind the times.

From the ...more
Jun 10, 15 12:50 PM appended by Nature
I should note that while the county has approved the above systems - they are only for 1,000 GPD or more. All new single-family homes (regardless of # of bedrooms/bathrooms generally) are rated at 300 GPD. So if someone was building a new house and wanted to use one of these systems - the County would deny it (and frankly, the system probably wouldn't work right because it wouldn't be getting adequate flow). A Solution would be to require all new SUBDIVISIONS to have these systems service all of the homes. Problem is, there are very few new subdivision and most people are just buying houses and tearing them down for re-builds.
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Jun 10, 15 12:50 PM
Bingo. Fertilizers, run off problems and septic systems lead to an increase in DIN [Dissolved Inorganic Nitrogen (e.g., nitrate, nitrite, and sometimes ammonium)] in the waters which is a major contributing factor of this issue. The lowest hanging fruit here is FERTILIZERS, folks. Our bays are dying as a result of this issue and we are beyond the point of required action but instead those in power have allowed waterfront properties to maintain neon green lawns at the cost of nearly all surrounding ...more
By Moneybogue (37), Westhampton Beach on Jun 12, 15 8:36 PM
MS doesn't believe in science, brown tide is just a natural occurrence and is cyclical.Man doesn't cause these problems in environment.
By Mets fan (1501), Southampton on Jun 10, 15 12:30 PM
Truth hurts don't it ms. Something on a very short list with republicans.
By Mets fan (1501), Southampton on Jun 12, 15 9:40 AM
You didn't happen to notice the most economically robust region in the country around you. Job growth, job growth, job growth. Came in on the precipice of deep depression to full employment. Go to National Geographic web-site (you trust them don't you), see the bergs melting and the jet stream temp change. Keep your head stuck in the sand. Scientists don't know science. The Pope doesn't know christianity. Women don't know what rights responsibly to have. I give you the modern republican party, trying ...more
By Mets fan (1501), Southampton on Jun 13, 15 9:31 AM
2 members liked this comment
The current Pope has a master's degree in chemistry from the University of Buenos Aires.

Please do entertain us with you definition of "socialism"...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jun 14, 15 9:09 AM
to Mets fan:

Congratulations. Your discussion has coaxed marlinspike to eschew replying with his usual sophomoric epigram. Too bad that its replacement is a juvenile ad hominem. Nevertheless, this departure from form does give readers hope that he may, on some future date, post a substantive opinion for the enjoyment of adults.
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jun 14, 15 9:11 AM
1 member liked this comment
Point out which is incorrect ms? You can team with Dnice as people not worth my time. When push comes to shove, all you got is name calling, kinda like Archie Bunker, revel in that.
By Mets fan (1501), Southampton on Jun 14, 15 10:04 AM
to marlinspike:

How old are you, really?
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jun 15, 15 7:29 AM
2 members liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jun 15, 15 8:10 AM
1 member liked this comment
You've already lost. The more you post, the more you recruit for the left.
By Mets fan (1501), Southampton on Jun 16, 15 9:26 AM
How have have I been neutralized? Keep living in your delusional world. Job growth and full employment, how is that a socialist agenda? Unfortunately you keep rooting against America in your hatred of the black man, Obama. Take a look around, get in line with the trade parade, most economically robust region in the country! No doubt you feel good now the Klown kar is complete with another of your stalwarts entering the race, The Donald. You really can't make this train wreck up.
By Mets fan (1501), Southampton on Jun 17, 15 9:35 AM
1 member liked this comment
to marlinspike:


"Meant neuterized."

You have erased Mets fan's sexual identity? Why would you even WANT to do that?
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jun 18, 15 7:07 AM
to marlinspike:

Thanks, for the second time in the SAME thread, for delightfully ingenuous irony. Keep it coming.
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jun 18, 15 12:14 PM
1 member liked this comment
The East End of Long Island.........green grass, golf courses, congested roadways and the playground for the very affluent. For all this we get polluted bays, creeks, lakes, groundwater and elected officials who cater to developers.
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Jun 12, 15 7:06 AM
1 member liked this comment
Also the home of generations of honest hard working folks who were here way before the rich "discovered" our beautiful area. That being said, the very affluent have provided a great client base for those with the forethought to own a business servicing them. I think the duck farms had a more deleterious impact on our bays' water quality than what's happening now.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Jun 13, 15 11:13 AM
2 members liked this comment
And yet the duck farms were operating for almost 100 years before the scourge of the brown tide, and their heyday was in the 1960's.

Failure to learn history...

By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jun 13, 15 11:38 PM
2 members liked this comment

The 1940s and 1950s were bad years for both oysters and hard clams. The reason was blooms of the “small form”, a very small species of algae that was a poor food for both oysters and hard clam, although it had a greater negative impact on oysters. The cause of the blooms was traced to two factors: the duck farming industry in Moriches Bay, which released large quantities of nutrients ...more
Jun 15, 15 12:14 PM appended by Mr. Snerdley
Speaking of failure to learn history...
By Mr. Snerdley (397), Southampton on Jun 15, 15 12:14 PM
1 member liked this comment
There is no proof the algae was "brown tied", and you conveniently leave out the prior decade:

"During the 1930s two natural events decimated the Great South Bay’s oyster population. The first was in 1931 when a coastal storm opened Moriches Inlet into Moriches Bay. The opening of Moriches Inlet increased the salinity of the eastern Great South Bay which enabled the oyster drill, a small snail that that preyed upon seed oysters, to increase in abundance and to expand its range in ...more
Jun 18, 15 7:24 AM appended by Mr. Z
"brown tide", dang autocorrect...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jun 18, 15 7:24 AM
Conveniently left out? LOL. The topic in question was the opinion that duck farming at least rivaled brown tide and failing to learn history. So naturally, I referenced... well... duck farming and history.

Other than getting your algae variants in a wad (which btw no one said the 40's and 50's "small form" algae WAS brown tide), what's your point? My take away from the Kassner information is that the problem has been long standing for one reason or another, both man made and naturally ...more
By Mr. Snerdley (397), Southampton on Jun 18, 15 8:41 AM
1 member liked this comment
fluent: (of a person) able to express oneself easily and articulately.

affluent: (especially of a group or area) having a great deal of money; wealthy.

effluent: liquid waste or sewage discharged into a river or the sea.

not necessarily in that order
By loading... (601), quiogue on Jun 16, 15 11:10 AM
2 members liked this comment