JAMAICA — Recycled toilets are being transformed into a home for 50,000 Jamaica Bay shellfish in what officials are calling "the largest single installation of breeding oysters in New York City."
Photo credit: Courtesy of the Department of Environmental Protection
The $1,375,000 initiative, led by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in partnership with the Billion Oyster Project, seeks to restore healthy oyster populations in the bay, which was once blanketed in bivalve mollusks.
Harvesting, dredging and pollution led to their "functional extinction" in the area decades ago.
But now the city wants to restore oysters which experts say are a key element in the bay's ecosystem as they filter pollutants from the water, help to protect wetlands and shoreline from erosion and provide a home for fish and other sea dwellers, according to the DEP.
Since 2010, the DEP conducted two oyster reintroduction pilot studies within Jamaica Bay — in Dubos Point in Queens and in Gerritsen Creek in Brooklyn — which showed that oysters can survive in the area, the city said.
“This vital species naturally filters the waters of the Bay while providing unique habitat for fish," said Dan Mundy of Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers, a group dedicated to protecting the 31-square-mile bay.
"The restoration of oysters back into the waters of Jamaica Bay is one of the key remaining goals to fully restore this great and unique ecosystem."
(Photos courtesy of the Department Of Environmental Protection)
The installation will include a central bed and four smaller beds composed of clam and oyster shells as well as broken porcelain that has been recycled from nearly 5,000 old toilets, according to the DEP.
The city used to discard the toilets, but since porcelain seems to be as productive for oyster growth as shells, experts decided to reuse them for the project.
The DEP expects that the initiative will improve water quality in the bay in terms of dissolved oxygen, nitrogen removal and cleanliness.
The project is being funded with a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Interior, and $375,000 from the city’s DEP.
In 2014, two years after Hurricane Sandy damaged New York City's shores, the federal government also allocated a $60 million grant to the state to create a wall of oysters off the shore of Staten Island to help the area avoid future devastation.