Contaminants in Your Clams?

Residents along the Long Island Sound don’t just have to worry about possible beach closures this summer. Due to heavy rainfall over the last few days, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation has issued a temporary closure for shellfish harvesting in Nassau and Suffolk Counties along the coast.

What does rainfall have to do with shellfish? When rain falls on urbanized areas like Long Island that have lots of parking lots, rooftops, and roads, it is unable to infiltrate into the ground.

Instead, it runs along these hard surfaces, picking up pollutants like copper from brake linings, lawn chemicals, and bacteria. Most of this polluted runoff ends up flowing untreated directly into local rivers, streams, and coastal waters.

As you can imagine, swimming or fishing in waters polluted by heavy metals and sewage can pose a public health risk that not only makes people ill but can cost communities money.

Across the country, contamination and loss of fish and shellfish due to polluted runoff costs the commercial fish and shellfish industry up to $30 million every year.

The costs of missed work days, medical expenses, and investigations of people getting sick by eating contaminated shellfish can cost the public over $22 million a year.

Keeping pollution out of our rivers, lakes, and coastal waters in the first place is one of the best ways to ensure that our water is clean enough for fishing and swimming.

Green infrastructure practices, from rain gardens to green roofs, offer a cost-effective approach for communities to capture rainwater where it falls.

From New York’s city-wide green infrastructure plan to the permeable pavement parking lot installed at the Lindenhurst Memorial Library in Suffolk County, communities large and small in New York and across the country are implementing green infrastructure practices.

Green infrastructure works to keep polluted runoff out of places like Long Island Sound so we can safely swim at the beaches, go paddling on local rivers, and go fishing – without worrying about a side of sewage in our scallops.