Widespread reports of fish and turtle die-offs around the region may be linked to increased nitrogen in our waterways this spring. In the Bronx River, we have been seeing an increased number of dead bunker fish and turtles, which has raised our concerns. Combined sewer overflows may be contributing excess nitrogen into the river, releasing untreated sewage during heavy rains when the wastewater treatment plants become overwhelmed. Runoff from local streets and excess fertilizer adds to the problem, resulting in algal blooms that deplete oxygen in the water. Although algal blooms can occur naturally in spring, they are made worse by excess nitrogen loading.
While there is not much we can do in the short run, we can all help by conserving water, reducing fertilizer use, and supporting a strong Long Term Control Plan for controlling combined sewer overflows into the Bronx River.