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Mahogany Algae Bloom Confirmed in Bellport Bay

Bellport baysmKevin McAllistersm• Story by Barbara LaMonica

The reddish-brown hue that appears floating atop the waters in Bellport Bay has been confirmed as Mahogany Algae Bloom. Marine Scientist, Kevin McAllister, Founder of Defend H2O, said in an interview last week that the waters tested positive for Mahogany bloom which is one in a host of several blooms that have been surfacing on Long Island’s waters in recent summers. “We’ve been seeing blooms spring into early summer every year where various blooms have been appearing in the coastal waters of Suffolk County from spring through fall over quite a few years,” McAllister explained.
For this season in particular, McAllister said the longer spring and cold weather made the warm temps slower to creep up. Still, what is predictable, he said, is that some kind of algae bloom is sure to surface. “I knew something would be coming,” the marine scientist said.
Algae blooms range in an array of varieties ranging from Blue-Green, to Red, to Brown, to Rust, to Mahogany, all depending upon temperature and a variety of environmental conditions. Warmer water temperatures, sunlight and day length are all “triggers” for blooms. When once-bloomed algae start to die off and decompose, they then take oxygen, in essence, suffocating aquatic plants that thrive on oxygen. “These blooms last a few weeks, but that doesn’t mean they can’t reoccur in the same season,” McAllister cautions.
Unlike the Rust variety of algae bloom, Mahogany bloom does not pose a public health threat, McAllister said. Toxins ingested in the marine life food chain from Rust tide spelled disaster in local waters’ ecosystems in recent years. “The severity of Rust tide releases bio-toxins, which is what we saw in the Peconic River and Flanders Bay last year when quite a few terrapin turtles and hundreds of thousands of fish were dying off,” recounts McAllister.
But it is cesspools, road runoff, and nitrogen in ponds, creeks and bays that McAllister says set the staff for blooms to occur. McAllister said it’s going to “take a very long time” to remedy the ever-increasing algae bloom problems that are occurring year-after-year, season-after-season. “We should be transitioning into advanced treatment with new homes that are being built,” McAllister said.
Localizing the focus to Bellport experiencing the most recent Mahogany bloom, McAllister says he is “surprised”. “The inlet (breach) that was created by Hurricane Sandy increased the circulation and flushing of the bay” and created an exchange of ocean and bay waters. “We also didn’t see these (algae bloom) build-ups in coastal lagoons like the Great South Bay and Moriches Bay,” he said.
Development along Sunrise Highway over the last decade has been a culprit in aiding to the pollution of local waterways. Add to that, fresh water influences seeping into local waters from the land mass that include fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, cesspools, and the list goes on, and the perfect storm is created for polluting local waters. “The load and build-up coming into these shallow lagoons is enormous,” McAllister said.
Earlier last month the Long Island Water Partnership conducted a press conference announcing that new DEC data released documents “alarming increases in Blue-Green Algae blooms in Suffolk County” wherein nitrogen from sewage is seeping into groundwater that flows into freshwater lakes, ponds, creeks and rivers.
Still, algae blooms are an almost certain unknown. “I knew something would be coming,” McAllister said of the latest Mahogany tide. “I’m concerned that over time we’ve become complacent, and in doing so, we’re polluting the waters. This is not 1970 and things have to change,” McAllister said. “Almost every water, bay or creek (in Suffolk County), is on the New York State’s ‘Impaired Water List’ (including the Forge River and Moriches Bay).” The ‘Impaired Water List’ is devised by the State’s Department of Environmental Conservation which assesses water bodies. “These are bodies of water that are not meeting the state’s standards, and this is a sad commentary for Long Island,” McAllister stated.
Citing one example, McAllister points to waters on the north side of Moriches Bay. “Eel grass, which needs sunlight and oxygen, has been replaced by thick, dense, green sea lettuce which is (suffocating), and what we’ve done is changed the ecosystem in our bays,” he said.
There is a frustration level which exists: “I’ve been encouraging all towns to enact local laws to curtail nitrogen levels, and to create an awareness and prioritization of our waters,” McAllister said.
Bellport Village Mayor Raymond Fell did not return phone calls placed to his office on Friday.

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