Since the federal Clean Water Act became law in 1972, investments in water pollution control programs have led to measurable improvements in the water quality of Long Island Sound. Obvious sources of pollution are now regulated and controlled through permit programs, tidal wetlands are protected, and major efforts to build and improve sewage treatment plants and control industrial discharges have helped to restore degraded waters. With the 1994 Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP) as a guide, programs now focus on the health of the Long Island Sound ecosystem as a whole to attain the goals of clean water and sediments, abundant and diverse fisheries and wildlife, sustainable ecosystems, and multiple commercial and recreational uses.
But just how effective have these efforts been? Is the water cleaner and safer to swim in? Are contaminant concentrations decreasing? Are habitats being protected and restored? Are the fish and shellfish more abundant (and safe to eat)?
Under a new initiative, the Long Island Sound Study (LISS) has developed environmental indicators (specific, measurable markers that help assess the condition of the environment and how it changes over time) to monitor the health of the Sound and to answer these kinds of questions.
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