NOAA and Partners Complete Restoration Project in Hempstead Harbor

September 21, 2009

Restored shoreline.

Restored shoreline.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

Today, NOAA and its partners celebrated the successful completion of a multi-year project to compensate the public for hazardous waste released into Hempstead Harbor, N.Y. The project restored salt marsh and coastal shoreline, and created important habitats for spawning, nursing and foraging fish and other wildlife.

“Coastal wetlands like this one provide important environmental and economic services,” said Robert Haddad, Assessment and Restoration Division chief of NOAA’s Office of Response & Restoration. “The completion of this habitat cleanup and restoration project will benefit fisheries and the wildlife and coastal communities that depend upon them.”

The Applied Environmental Services property, designated as a Superfund site in 1986, was used as a petroleum and hazardous waste storage area from the 1930s to the 1970s. Improper handling and storage of these hazardous substances led to the contamination of groundwater, surface water, soils, sediments, and air.

Restoration took place across the harbor in Bar Beach Lagoon. NOAA partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New York State agencies, and the Town of North Hempstead on activities that included the removal of invasive plant species and 3,000 cubic yards of soil and solid waste debris. Each of the excavated areas was backfilled with clean soils provided by the Town of North Hempstead. Volunteers helped plant more than 8,000 native marsh wetland plants and coastal grasses, shrubs and trees.

“This restoration project also will improve the quality of life for communities in the vicinity of Hempstead Harbor,” said Jon Kaiman, the Town of North Hempstead Supervisor. “The town is proud to have played a key role in the turnaround of this critical wildlife habitat.”

This project was the first in the nation to be funded by a Superfund natural resource damage settlement that included money for performance monitoring. Efforts have succeeded in establishing a diverse population of salt marsh and coastal plant and animal species, including marsh vegetation, invertebrates, fish and birds.

NOAA’s Damage Assessment, Remediation, and Restoration Program restores habitats and communities that have been harmed by oil spills, hazardous substance releases, and ship groundings. Since the 1980s, this program has worked with other agencies, industry and communities to successfully protect natural resources at more than 500 waste sites and settled almost 200 natural resource damage assessment cases, generating almost $450 million for restoration projects nationwide.

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.