Unchecked Development and Pollution Threatens Water Quality and Recreation For Millions in New York and New Jersey

NRDC Report Lists 'Dirty Dozen' Polluters

NEW YORK (December 3, 2002) -- Much of the progress made in cleaning up the waters in the New York-New Jersey harbor area are now imperiled by widespread pollution and unchecked coastal development, according to a report released today by a leading environmental group.

The study, entitled Cape May To Montauk: A Coastal Protection Report Card, is the result of three years of investigation and analysis by NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). The report grades 169 localities and a half-dozen state and federal agencies for their effectiveness at controlling pollution and managing coastal sprawl.

The study found that in 1999 alone more than 35 million pounds of toxins, including zinc, cyanide, chloroform, toluene, and chromium were dumped into the waters stretching along the New Jersey coast and east along Long Island -- including New York Harbor. The report also cites the "Dirty Dozen," a list of the 12 biggest polluters in New York and New Jersey between the years 1995-1999. Among the most egregious offenders:

  • Jamaica Water Pollution Control Plant, Queens, N.Y. 144 violations for dumping raw sewage solids, fecal coliform, nitrogen, zinc, and lead into Jamaica Bay;
  • Plum Island Animal Disease Center, Suffolk County, N.Y. -- 130 violations for excessive effluent releases, high fecal coliform levels, high chlorine and ph levels, and the release of oil and grease;
  • Suffolk County Sd# 3 - Southwest Plant, Babylon, N.Y. -- 100 violations for high chlorine, fecal coliform, cyanide, copper, and zinc releases;
  • LaGuardia Airport Petroleum Bulk Stations, Queens, N.Y. -- 98 violations for releases of benzene, toluene, xylene, grease, oil and solids and;
  • Standard Chlorine Chemical Co., Kearney Town, N.J. -- 84 violations for high e-coli levels and dyes.

The report details residential and commercial development that the authors say is causing serious and irreparable harm to highly valued sites such as Jamaica Bay, West Hampton Dunes, Cheesequake State Park, and the Meadowlands Wetlands.

"Our coastal region has grown and prospered in part because three decades of monitoring and enforcement have made the area's waters more drinkable, swimable and fishable," said Carolyn Summers, Harbor Bight program director and the report's principal author. "But unrestrained and poorly planned growth is jeopardizing all that area residents have gained over that time."

"Chemical releases and runoff, unregulated growth, and destruction of our last parcels of open space is undoing 30 years of environmental progress and is threatening to diminish the quality of life for beachgoers, local residents and animals alike," noted Hank Smeal, policy analyst with NRDC's Harbor Bight program.

The report also describes how "fast-tracked" development is out-pacing land acquisition for recreational and habitat protection purposes. NRDC analysts found that state and federal agencies approved more than 98% of development projects subject to wetland permits in the years 1995-1997. The report also notes that only 14 square miles of New York City's 100 miles of wetlands remain.

"Our report shows which communities in the region are doing a good job of managing growth and protecting waters, and which are covering their eyes and letting developers and polluters get away with openly abusing of our collective shores," noted report author Dr. Nellie Tsipoura, scientist in NRDC's Harbor Bight program.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 500,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Related NRDC Pages

Nature along New York and New Jersey's Atlantic Coastlines