Jamaica Bay, the 31-square-mile water body encircled by the Brooklyn and Queens waterfront, is an expanse of nature lying wholly within the confines of New York City. The bay’s salt marshes, islands and shallow waterways provide a home to hundreds of species of birds and marine life, from peregrine falcons to sea turtles.
But the bay’s highly urbanized location – its immediate neighbor to the east is Kennedy International Airport – and years of pollution and neglect have left it in far from pristine condition. And while the bay is no longer the dumping ground it once was, problems remain, chief among them an accelerating rate of loss of salt marshes in the bay.
Environmentalists assign much of the blame for the disappearing marshlands on high flows of nitrogen flowing into the waters of the bay from the city’s sewage treatment plants. The dissolved nitrogen is also responsible for low dissolved oxygen levels in the bay, harming marine life.
To reduce the city’s nitrogen discharges, the Bloomberg administration announced in March that it would spend about $115 million over the next decade on nitrogen-control technologies at sewage plants on the bay. That investment began paying off this week, as work started on the installation of a state-of-the-art ammonia recovery system at the 26th Ward wastewater treatment plant on Jamaica Bay.
The system will prevent approximately 2.4 million pounds of ammonia, a nitrogen-rich compound, from entering the bay every year. It will be installed by the ThermoEnergy Corporation under a $27.1 million contract with the city.
New York City’s overall goal is to reduce nitrogen discharges into Jamaica Bay by 50 percent, the city’s environmental protection commissioner, Cas Holloway, said in a statement.
“Preserving Jamaica Bay is a top priority for the Bloomberg administration,” Mr. Holloway said.