Describing the condition of a water body 110 miles long poses a challenge. Hydrology (the movement of water) and sediment characteristics vary within each of the Sound’s sub-basins, as does the degree of shoreline development. Water quality in any location varies by season. And in some locations, historical contaminant discharges still affect present-day conditions. In other words, the Sound can be described as healthy and vibrant, or distressed and impaired, depending on location, season, and issue.
But recent work by the EPA’s Office of Research and Development to characterize water quality, the toxicity of sediments on the sea floor, and the variety of species living in or on the seafloor (benthic community) offers an approach to quantitatively characterizing conditions geographically in Long Island Sound. Using an index of different indicators for each of these measures, the Sound’s western, central, and eastern basins can be rated as good, fair, or poor.
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