[USA] Senator Charles Schumer, the Senate minority leader, has called on Congress to quickly pass the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act, which he said would help combat the rise in toxic algae found in Long Island waterways. Left unchecked, said Mr. Schumer, a Democrat, these toxic blooms could contaminate Long Island’s drinking water and damage economies dependent on fishing and recreation.
The bill, co-sponsored by Bill Nelson, a Democratic senator from Florida, provides funding as well as a research and response framework to combat blooms of cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, throughout the United States. Starting in 2019, it would authorize $22 million per year for five years to help conduct research on harmful algal blooms and continue an interagency working group to advance the understanding of hypoxia, or low oxygen, and harmful algal blooms. The bill also requires that the task force submit to Congress a scientific assessment of harmful algal blooms in coastal waters and freshwater systems at least every five years.
Mr. Schumer said that this funding should be used to help combat the rise of algal blooms on Long Island. “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,” he said in a statement. “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.”
Because of factors including aging septic systems, the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus in waterways throughout New York has increased in recent years, promoting the growth of harmful algal blooms. Scientists also point to manifestations of climate change including warmer temperatures and more spring rainfall, both of which promote the growth of algal blooms. According to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, red tides and cyanobacteria have severe impacts on human health, aquatic ecosystems, and the economy.
The Long Island Clean Water Partnership has reported that over the past four months, harmful algal blooms have appeared in every bay and estuary on Long Island. Hypoxia was documented in 21 locations across the Island, and cyanobacteria blooms were documented in 15 lakes and ponds. Mr. Schumer said that this increase in toxic algae has the potential to put ecosystems, drinking water, and recreational activities, like boating and swimming, at risk.
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