Rust Tide Can Kill Fish, Shellfish Within Days

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A toxic tide has been rolling in on the east end of Long Island, and residents have been concerned.

As CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan reported Tuesday evening, the dirty water is not harmful to people. But everyone from scientists to tourists have said the brown water raises red flags.

“I saw it over there – I saw reddish brown water,” said Southampton mom Gina Larucci, as she paddled in for a closer look along with fellow mom Brenda Guifurta.

“It’s really sad and frightening to look at,” Larucci said.

The tide has returned to fragile wildlife estuaries and saltwater bays on the East End. The organism that turns the water from clear blue to a murky orange and brown hue can now be spotted along Peconic, Shinnecock and Flanders shores.

“It is highly lethal,” said Christopher Gobler, a professor at the Stony Brook University School of Marine Sciences. “It can kill fish within a matter of hours. It can kill shellfish within a matter of days. It releases a toxin that is very, very potent.”

Gobler is studying the effects of the rusty water on shellfish. Clams and scallops swallow the sentiment, and intense levels of nitrogen in samples show why marine life is dying off – although the tide is not a direct danger to humans.

“We like clamming. We like fluke fishing,” said Southampton fisherman Jim Coseo. “We need to keep bay clean.”

If the toxic tide continues unchecked, it could spell disaster for baymen, for fish process, and for tourism too.

“No longer swimmable, drinkable, fishable,” said Peconic baykeeper Kevin McAllister.

McAllister said the technologies are out there to better treat farm fertilizers and animal and human waste. But he claims the state is not requiring change.

“They’re not doing enough to address waste water discharges,” he said.

The toxic rust tide is expected to spread in coming weeks — extending into fall, or until temperatures drop below 60 degrees. It is also expected to reappear next summer to start another bloom.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation said it cannot comment on claims that it is not doing enough to protect Long Island waterways, because of a pending lawsuit.

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