Schumer Pushes Bipartisan Plan To Combat Toxic Algae Spread

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Plan sets aside up to $100 million to protect marine life, bays, estuaries—and drinking water

On the heels of new data confirming that harmful algae in bays and estuaries continues to spread throughout Nassau and Suffolk Counties, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer called on Congress to quickly pass the “Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act.” Schumer says the bill would help combat the recent rise in toxic algae found in Long Island waterways. And Schumer warned, that left unchecked, these toxic blooms could contaminate drinking water for Long Island residents,re as well as damage the local economy dependent on fishing and recreation

“Knowing there is a federal effort that requires the approval of Congress to help Long Island combat dangerous algae and bloom spreads demands an effort to act,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “If we pass this plan, we will help protect marine life, bays, estuaries and drinking water while continuing to seek out new dollars and resources exclusively for Long Island. These toxic blooms not only threaten our ecosystems and public health, but also hurt the local economy by closing beaches and limiting recreational activities. Waterways throughout the country, including those on Long Island, need access to the resources this bill provides in order to research and respond to toxic algae more effectively. That’s why I am making a push to get this legislation across the finish line and spread more dollars and researchers to Long Island to fight the blooms.”

Due to a number of factors, including nitrogen pollution as a result of older wastewater systems, the amount of phosphorous in waterways throughout New York has increased in recent years, causing large algal blooms to grow in the water. Experts say climate change has also brought warmer temperatures and more spring rainfall, both of which favor the growth of algae blooms. According to the EPA, red tides, blue-green algae or cyanobacteria, harmful algal blooms have severe impacts on human, health, aquatic ecosystems and the economy.

According to published reports, the Long Island Clean Water Partnership says that over the past four months harmful algae have made their way into every bay and estuary on Long Island. Specifically, hypoxia was documented in 21 locations throughout Long Island and cases of blue-green algae blooms were documented in 15 lakes and ponds. Schumer today said that this increase in toxic algae has the potential to put ecosystems, drinking water and recreational activities, like boating and swimming, at risk.

Schumer said that the bill, sponsored by Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), provides funding, but also a research and response framework to combat Blue Green Algal bloom outbreaks throughout the country. Specifically, the bill would authorize $22 million a year for 5 years (2019-2023) to help conduct research on harmful algal blooms and continue an interagency working group to advance the understanding of hypoxia and harmful algal blooms.

Additionally, the bill requires the task force submit a scientific assessment to Congress at least every five years of harmful algal blooms in US coastal waters and freshwater systems. Schumer says these kinds of dollars and resources, once enshrined in the law, should be used to help combat the rise of algal blooms in Long Island. 

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