When Arlriaen Block came through Long Island Sound 375 years ago,
Long Island Sound: Past to Present it abounded with aquatic life-huge oysters,
clams, lobsters, dozens of species of fish in limitless numbers, and even dolphins.
Colonists built homes and an energetic fishin g industry which survives today. But, in the 19th century, heavy industry began dumping massive amounts of toxic waste into the Sound.
The human population soared and railroads and highways crept out along the Sound ‘s indented shorelines, bridging and cutting off many of its inlets.
In this century, with the automobile came the suburban sprawl of cottages, homes, recreational developments and countless industries.
Until recently , wetlands were wastelands to be filled. Sewage, toxins, oil running off highways and other waste could easi ly go into waterways under the rule “out-of-sight, out-of-mind.”
The Clean Water Act of the 1970s forced many industries to clean up, or pack up and most of us thought that was good enough.
Then, the summer of 1987 saw the weste rn end of Long Island Sound, from New York ‘s Throgs Neck Bridge to Bridgeport. Connecticut, di e for lack of oxygen.
In Hempstead Harbor, Dr. Barbara Welsh, Associate Professor of Oceanography at the University of Connecticut watched two divers slide into the water
from a small launch belonging to the Uni versity of Connecticut’s research vessel, Yukon.
They found themselves swimming through a murk of decomposing fish.
Trawlers for the Marine Fisheries Program of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection found 80% of bottom-dwellers like starfish and crabs dead, and failed to find even one fish alive.
Today, two years later, Dr. Welsh, who is also the principal investigator on water column hypoxia (loss of oxygen) forthe Federal Long Island Sound Study,
points out that 1988 was a better year, “but we were within I mi lligram of oxygen per liter of going over the edge.
The Sound ‘s margin of safety is [dangerously] small in summer.” In 1985, the magnitude of the problem was such that, under the National Estuary Program,
the Federal Government initi ated a $3 million Long Island Sound Study (known as LISS to its fri ends).
The study rece ived high marks in Washington DC, but the news wasn’t good.
A congressional caucus on the Sound decided last autumn that the Sound was in even worse condition than anticipated.
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