Greenwich conservationists dine on shellfish from the Sound to celebrate clean water
GREENWICH — To celebrate the big strides made in improving water quality in Long Island Sound, the conservationists who gathered at the Pollinator Potluck dined on shellfish taken from the waters off Greenwich.
This year’s potluck, coordinated among Greenwich’s garden groups and other green organizations, focused on water quality. Soundkeeper Bill Lucey praised Greenwich, which has an A-plus rating on Save the Sound’s Sound Health Explorer at www.soundhealthexplorer.org.
“That coupled with all the shellfish testing at the shellfish beds, Greenwich is extremely clean,” Lucey said.
And in the decades that the town has had a Shellfish Commission, Greenwich’s part of the Sound has gone from anoxic conditions — like much of the Sound close to New York City — to a state where oxygen is now abundant in the water and marine health is being restored.
Greenwich’s shellfish play a huge role in the restoration, according to NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries and Science Center in Milford.
“The shellfish beds are cleaning your water more than they have to,” Lucey said. “I think that’s the only place where this is working.”
In celebration of shellfish, Greenwich’s shellfish commissioners coordinated the donation of a raw bar from Atlantic Clam Farms of Connecticut for the potluck.
“These are (from) the Greenwich shellfish beds tonight,” said Shellfish Commission Vice Chair Sue Baker, “not just Long Island Sound.”
Kim Gregory of the Greenwich Garden Club introduced the speakers in the recent event at Audubon Greenwich and asked: “Who would have thought we’d be eating shellfish from the Sound?”
“The fact that Greenwich inlets had the only A-plus rating on that Long Island Sound map proves that the hard work Greenwich Shellfish Commission has done over the last 32 years made a huge difference to our shore water — plus all of the LIS programs our town Conservation Commission implements and supports,” Gregory said.
The Sound Health Explorer first accrued enough data to give Greenwich a report card on its water in 2005.
Back then, Greenwich Point received a D, Byram Shore got a C, and Island Beach was rated a B. The grade is determined by the number of safe swimming failures due to bacteria and fecal pollution — with 18 percent of samples failing the test at Greenwich Point, 11 percent at Byram Shore and 9 percent at Island Beach in 2005.
Since the summer of 2014, none of the samples at Greenwich Point failed the safe swimming analysis, keeping the beach at top water quality for nearly four years.
The water at Island Beach has maintained an average A rating since the fall of 2010 — with samples passing the safe swimming analysis more than 95 percent of the time. Byram Shore has held a steady B average — with a passing rate of 89 percent to 94 percent — since mid-2011.
“The pollution challenge here is intense, but we are making progress,” said Lucey. “And if we can fix it here, we can fix it anywhere.”
Email Jennifer Turiano at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter: @jturianoGT and Instagram: @greenwichgreen.