The Forge River is a shallow, tidal waterway, located between the hamlets of Mastic and Moriches on the south shore of Suffolk County, New York. Over the past few decades the river has been subject to a variety of adverse impacts, including duck farm and sewage treatment plant discharges, septic system leachate, storm water runoff, loss of wetlands, over-development, and shoreline hardening. As a result, this once scenic and biologically productive environment is now characterized by recurring algal blooms, water discoloration, low dissolved oxygen levels, fish and crustacean kills, and foul-smelling odors.
In response to the river's deteriorating condition, and in cooperation with various state and local agencies, environmental groups and the general public, the Suffolk County Department of Health Services (SCDHS) Office of Ecology has initiated an extensive water quality monitoring program that encompasses some 20 marine and freshwater sites located throughout the river's corridor. Monitoring has been done on an approximate monthly basis since June 2005, with samples collected for a variety of parameters including nutrients, salinity, dissolved oxygen, bacteria, chlorophyll-a, and phytoplankton. Results of monitoring done can be downloaded from the following link: Marine Water Quality Data.
Results of this work have shown a considerable degree of impairment to exist throughout much of the river, particularly in its upper reaches, including periods of hypoxia (low dissolved oxygen), levels of nitrogen that are typical of a eutrophic (over-enriched) environment, and periodically elevated coliform levels. The well documented fish kills and odors generated during summer months in the river are a predictable manifestation of this problem.
Concurrent to Ecology’s investigation, researchers from SUNY Stony Brook’s Marine Sciences Research Center (with support from NYS Senator LaValle, Brookhaven Town and the Suffolk County Water Quality Protection fund) conducted a series of studies to characterize sediment constituents, interpret sediment related processes, and develop a nitrogen budget for the river. Reports of this work can be downloaded from the list of links shown below.
In 2006 the river was included on New York State’s 303d list of impaired waters (impaired for aquatic life due to excess nitrogen levels). To address the impairment, the Town of Brookhaven has developed a Watershed Management Plan that will serve as an initial analysis for development of a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for nitrogen. Suffolk County’s monitoring data will be a key component of the TMDL development process.
In 2007, with the support of Congressman Bishop, the US Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) initiated a “Reconnaissance Study” in the river, the objective of which was to determine if there was federal interest in participating in a cost-shared “Feasibility Study” to further evaluate environmental restoration needs in the river. The Reconnaissance Study report recommended that the ACOE proceed to the next step and conduct a comprehensive watershed Feasibility Study that would “quantify causes of habitat impairment and assess various engineering and environmental solutions to improve water quality, enhance the ecosystem and reduce pollutants...".