By Mike Phillips
Although the bureaucratic tangle around the Jasmine Street beach access clearly is the greatest concern in the state’s designation of impaired (polluted or otherwise troublesome) parts of Nassau County, several inland spots also were listed. They bear watching but are less alarming.
But if you haven’t read Monday’s account of the Jasmine Street beach access listing, read that first. It will tell you how the listings were made in July but only came to light recently.
The inland listings – mostly small areas near or in waterways – generally point to high levels of iron in the water, but a couple also point to high levels of aluminum. And a few, unfortunately, to bacteria.
Excess iron in ground water is not necessarily pollution. It can be naturally occurring as iron-bearing rocks break down. Regardless, high iron content can create what’s called iron bacteria. This isn’t the kind of bacteria that make people sick, but it can create an unappealing, smelly, red slime.
High iron content can, however, make it harder to get rid of harmful bacteria like E. Coli. But it generally poses little risk to people using ground water for boating, swimming, fishing or shellfish gathering.
Excessive aluminum in ground water is more troublesome.
In water, aluminum can act as a toxic agent on animals that use gill-breathing, such as fish and invertebrates, by causing a loss of their ability to maintain appropriate body pressure. This can affect uptake of salts and ions.
Aluminum can also react with other chemical contaminants in the water, leading to trouble. Even though it is often stated that low concentrations do not negatively impact aquatic life, chronic exposure to even low levels can be toxic to certain species of aquatic plants, fish and snails.There hasn’t been much research, though, on the effect of aluminum on aquatic life in creeks and streams. You might say that the state’s aluminum level limits are educated guesses.
Like any mineral, aluminum can occur naturally in nature. But an awful lot of it gets into our waters thanks to careless can-tossers.
Some of the Nassau spots are covered by the robust St. Marys Riverkeeper organization, which operates in northern Nassau and has some Nassau folks on its impressive volunteer roster. Executive director Emily Floore is open to sharing ideas with Nassau citizens who are disturbed by the state’s poor communication after designating the “impaired” areas but not telling anyone for six months. Look for an interview with her as soon as she can clear out some time.
Now. Here are the inland impaired areas. The number on the left of the list is from the state’s list of verified impaired areas. Then comes the location, then the nature of the problem, then (not always given) the level of concern.
|62||Nassau River, unnamed branch||Dissolved Oxygen||High|
|368||Amelia River estuary||Aluminum|
|369||Nassau River at Lofton Creek||Aluminum|
|900||St. Marys estuary||Enterococci||Low|
|1079||Mills Creek||Fecal coliform|
|1086||Deep Creek||Fecal coliform|
|1222||St. Marys estuary||Iron||Medium|
|1223||Amelia River estuary||Iron||Medium|
|1226||South Amelia River estuary||Iron|
|1227||Nassau River sound||Iron|