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New Data Shows Alarming Nitrogen Levels In Long Island's Waterways

SHINNECOCK BAY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- According to new data released by marine scientists on Wednesday, Long Island is in crisis mode when it comes to its waterways.

As CBS 2's Jennifer McLogan reported, commercial fisherman Kenny Raynor, of East Quogue, has seen dramatic and worrisome changes along the coast of Long Island.

"It affects everything -- the fish, the wildlife, the birds. Nothing comes into the bay because there's too much nitrogen in the bay," Raynor said.

New Data Shows Alarming Nitrogen Levels In Long Island's Waterways

Too much nitrogen in the water means marine life swims away or dies off. Fin fish and shellfish cannot survive without enough oxygen and toxic algae takes over, McLogan reported.

In a startling new study by Stony Brook scientists, more than two-thirds of the Island's coastal waters this summer showed poor to lethal amounts of oxygen.

Researchers used water monitors at 30 sites; of those sites, 21 failed, McLogan reported.

Sites with the worst oxygen levels include Westhampton Beach, Huntington Bay, Shinnecock and Flanders Bay.

"By making continuous measurements 24-7 all through the summer, we caught these times and periods
where the oxygen levels would go to zero and stay there for an extended period of time...absolutely dangerous," Professor Christopher Gobler said.

Dangerous for survival and dangerous for an economy built on seafood, beaches, swimming and tourism, McLogan reported.

Suffolk County leaders say clean water has been threatened by an outdated waste water system, sewer and septic runoff, fertilizers, pesticides and emissions from power plants and vehicles.

The Nature Conservancy of Long Island studied the just released data.

"This is the greatest public and environmental health challenge of our time," said Chris Clap, with Nature Conservancy of Long Island.

Experts say even if policy makers act now, it will still take 5 to 10 years to reverse the trend and see any real changes in the Island's waterways.

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