Excess Nitrogen in the Water of Jamaica Bay

Jamaica Bay

Almost 40,000 pounds of nitrogen a day pour into Jamaica Bay from four city sewage treatment plants, making it among the most nitrogen-polluted water bodies in the world. The excess nitrogen causes harmful algae blooms that render Jamaica Bay waters inhospitable to marine life, affecting not only fin- and shellfish populations but the local and migratory birds that feed on them.

by F. Portmann

There is also mounting evidence that elevated nitrogen levels are contributing to the rapid erosion of the marsh islands, which control shoreline erosion and provide temporary resting grounds for the thousands of weary birds that pass through every year on the Atlantic Flyway. Many experts have stated that the bay’s ecosystem will not survive without a substantial reduction in nitrogen loadings.

Now, through the efforts of the Natural Resources Defense Council, environmental groups and city and state officials, an unprecedented agreement has been signed. Under the July 2011 agreement, the city and state will cut in half, by 2020, the amount of nitrogen discharged into the bay from four city sewage treatment plants. The city will pay $100 million to upgrade technology at the plants and will spend an additional $15 million to slow the erosion of the bay’s marsh islands. Work has already started on the installation of a state-of-the-art ammonia recovery system at the 26th Ward wastewater treatment plant on Jamaica Bay. The system will prevent approximately 2.4 million pounds of ammonia, a nitrogen-rich compound, from entering the bay every year.

by F. Portmann


This agreement is a huge step forward for the birds, plants and animals that depend on clean water in Jamaica Bay. NYC Audubon applauds and supports all efforts to reduce nitrogen discharges in the Jamaica Bay watershed.

Click here read NYC Audubon Board member and NRDC attorney Larry Levine's write-up of the recent agreement.

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