Cleaning Water With Shellfish

<p>New York City is considering a plan to create beds of oysters in one of the city's waterways to help filter water.</p>
February 27, 2008, 6am PST | Nate Berg
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"Natural oyster beds once stretched for 350 square miles in New York's waterways. Over time, overharvesting and pollution took their toll. Sewage first forced the bay's shellfish beds to close in the mid-19th century, with all harvests outlawed in the 1920s."

"There probably has not been an oyster in Jamaica Bay since the 1930s, Mr. McLaughlin said. 'There may be a single individual or a few that seagulls dropped,' he said. 'But there's no population of any significance.'"

"The new project, outlined in Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's PlaNYC 2030 sustainability policy, is meant to change that."

"Scientists in the last several decades have developed a better understanding of the ability of oysters to filter water. As an adult oyster feeds, it can filter 5 to 50 gallons of water a day, depending on its size and the temperature of the water."

"During this process, it absorbs nitrogen, algae and bacteria, depositing them in the sediment at the water's bottom. The oyster beds also serve as the foundation for an ecosystem that can support other marine species, like eelgrass, which in turn absorb other waste materials and provide habitats for fish."

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Published on Wednesday, February 27, 2008 in The New York Times
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